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Only in the Twitter fueled, media-driven world that we live in today would the dominant headline be LeBron James’ potential return to the Cleveland Cavaliers despite the fact that he’s in the midst of a deep playoff run and chasing a third consecutive championship with his current team, the Miami Heat.
As soon as the lottery balls rolled in favor of the Cavaliers for a third time in the past four years, giving the embattled franchise the No. 1 overall pick, the all-too-familiar noise came back.
The media vultures began speculating about LeBron returning to the franchise he spurned four years ago because a host of young talent and the cap space to land a big-time running mate beside James would lure him back.
Yet, while this speculation was occurring, LeBron’s current team, the two-time defending champions, were about to even their best-of-7 series against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, a place that the Cavaliers haven’t sniffed in over four years since James skipped town.
How does it make sense to discuss a return to a franchise that hasn’t been close to .500 in four years when the King currently sits on a throne that has brought him two rings?
Sure, there are the happily-ever-after storylines that would surface if James returned to his hometown squad: The fans would bow at his feet again, he would be in his prime and make Cleveland an immediate title contender again; it would essentially be the hero turned villain turned hero again story that everyone loves. And if he delivered a title to the championship-hungry city of Cleveland, he would go down in history as the most iconic and beloved sports star in the city’s history.
But, in the end, these are all big IFS.
Just because you add LeBron to a team of Kyrie Irving and a few other budding players doesn’t mean the Cavaliers are guaranteed a Larry O’Brien trophy.
James experienced first hand in Miami just how difficult it was to bring home that first ring, and that was alongside two bonafide superstars in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, plus a host of other proven role players.
Cleveland doesn’t have the championship experience or poise to win a ring right from the get go. As presently constructed, the majority of their roster hasn’t even spent more than a week above .500, let alone play in the postseason. And being 29 and his prime, James doesn’t have time to wait.
Hypothetically though, the addition of LeBron, the right coach, and the right system could give Cleveland a title shot.
Still, that doesn’t change what the King already has in Miami right now: An Established And Reliable Supporting Cast and a Championship Blueprint.
In Miami’s Big 3 era, every player on the roster, from 1 to 15, has been criticized in some way, shape or form.
Wade is too old and too injury prone. Bosh is soft and a glorified three-point shooter. Chalmers is erratic and inconsistent. The other role players are too old to contribute.
Yet, in each of the seasons since the Big Three joined forces, Miami has finished in either a NBA championship or Finals appearance. This era has resulted in a 13-1 record in 14 playoff series, two titles, and three Finals appearances. This team has never lost to an Eastern Conference foe in the playoffs and has won 10 consecutive playoff series.
And that is because time and time again, just when you start to doubt LeBron’s disciples, they come through and deliver just what the Miami Heat need to win.
Look no further than this year’s postseason.
After missing a third of the season, Wade’s health and consistency were questioned by the media.
– Wade hasn’t missed a single game in the playoffs and is averaging 19.2 points on 52 percent shooting so far, while stepping up his game when needed most (ECF) to 23 points on 56 percent shooting in four games against the Pacers.
Chris Bosh averaged just nine points per in game in the first three contests in the East Finals.
– When a big game was needed, Bosh delivered and exploded for 25 points on 7-of-12 shooting in a crucial Game 4 win to help put the Heat up 3-1 over the Pacers.
Ray Allen struggled throughout most of the year, enduring one of the worst shooting seasons of his career.
– Allen has given the Heat the fourth quarter clutchness that is so necessary in the NBA playoffs, including his Game 5 dagger against the Nets that advanced the Heat to the East Finals and his four three pointers in the fourth quarter of Game 3 against the Pacers that gave the Heat a 2-1 lead.
There are countless more examples of Miami’s role players stepping up at the most important times of the season when things looked bleak, but they were able to come through as they always have.
So, why would LeBron want to leave such a proven situation?
In Miami, LeBron has the leadership, the personnel, and most importantly, the teammates, that he can rely in the most trying times. Despite their “advanced age” or overblown media-derived deficiencies, LeBron’s supporting cast have been a big part of the engine that has delivered him two rings.
He has the one thing he never had in Cleveland: A dependable supporting cast.
And there’s no reason to believe that will change as long as he stays in Miami.
Why leave that?
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