The Decision 2.0 has been revealed. LeBron James is going back to Cleveland.
After the Akron, Ohio native left his home state for Miami four years in extremely public fashion, James chose a different tactic to announce his return to the Cavaliers today, ending days of wild rumors and anticipation.
— SI NBA (@si_nba) July 11, 2014
In a first-person piece (told to Lee Jenkins) for SI, James explains his choice, including why he chose this method for his announcement.
I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and Riles didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together. That’s absolutely not true.
I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.
He admits that the infamous, heavily-criticized “Decision” ESPN special in 2010 was a mistake, but says he still would have left for Miami, comparing it to a “college” experience (James went to the NBA straight from high school). With the Heat, James made four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, winning twice, but ended his run by falling to the Spurs last month. The team also lost to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.
Regardless of that success, the four-time league MVP writes that he always knew he’d return to Cleveland. If he is able to deliver a title to a city with a half-century trophy drought — the last was in 1964 when the Browns won the then-NFL Championship — James would cement his legacy and bond with the region he spurned four years ago.
“Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time,” he writes. “My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”
While noting the challenge of leading a young roster and a rookie coach to the promised land, James also writes about what it means to return to his home.
I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.
The Celtics actually helped facilitate James’s return to Cleveland, helping the Cavs clear the requisite cap space to sign the star by agreeing to a three-team deal earlier this week. While it was believed that Danny Ainge was acquiring more assets to make yet another run at Kevin Love, fans began fearing that the trade actually may have enabled Cleveland to become a frontrunner for the Minnesota power forward’s services. The Cavs can dangle No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins in a trade — a deal that looked enticing to the Timberwolves before the draft, though Love reportedly then refused to sign an extension with the Cavs. With LeBron now headed there, Love would be much more likely to want to play in Ohio.
Speaking of Wiggins, it’s worth noting that he is not mentioned when James singles out a few of the “talented young guys” he plans to mentor and lead: All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, forward Tristan Thompson, and mercurial guard Dion Waiters. Consider that possible fuel for the Love-to-Cleveland fire.
There were several sticking points to James returning to Cleveland, including his reported hurt feelings over Cavs owner Dan Gilbert publicly taking him to task after the 2010 decision. ESPN’s J.A. Adande wondered how LeBron could look past those issues earlier this week. James addresses those points, saying it was tough to read Gilbert’s letter and see fans burning his jersey, but that he and the owner have talked and buried the hatchet.
“I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?” he writes.
Speculation over where James would play next season has run rampant this summer, with fans making mountains out of every molehill they could find – from LeBron’s wife posting a possible Instagram hint to the color codes hidden on James’s website matching the Cavs uniforms. But LeBron claims that this plan was not in place when the Finals ended last month, saying, “After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown.” James took meetings with multiple teams this week, but writes, “I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland.”
What do you think? Are you happy LeBron is going home?