Taking the exact opposite approach of when he left Cleveland in 2010, LeBron James (with the help of Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins) penned a heartfelt letter Friday when announcing his decision to return to the Cavaliers. Whether you believe the letter to be the heart-and-soul of a changed man bleeding onto the page, a brilliant piece of public relations, or something in between, there’s no arguing it was just about perfect. Here are the five best things about it:
1. It’s relatable Everyone thinks celebrities are from another planet, incapable of human feelings and sheltered from the real world by entourages and fancy hotel suites. Part of that is true, but having spent some time around James in basketball settings covering a couple of Celtics-Heat series, I can tell you he handles his celebrity better than anyone, graciously slipping in and out of interviews despite the absurdity of the whole process.
James starts off the letter by saying, “Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled.”
That’s superstar LeBron James, admitting to the world that people might not care about him if he didn’t play basketball, and that he has ups and downs, just like the rest of us.
2. He admits he made a mistake, but he doesn’t back down from his choice The Decision was a bad one. James admits his televised spectacle announcing his choice to sign with Miami was the wrong way to handle things. ” If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left.” I love that last part. Yeah the show sucked, but I’d go to Miami again 100 times out of 100, and I’m not sorry for that. Well done.
3. It’s such a boost to Cleveland There are lines in here that would make Drew Carey weep.
“I feel my calling here goes above basketball.”
“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.”
“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”
Imagine if the best athlete on the planet, who was from Boston, wrote that stuff about our city. I can just hear the cries of, “He means it cause he’s from heeyah!”
4. It’s not just about basketball
The parts about going home make this clear, but James even comes out and says that he didn’t make his decision based on which team was the best.
“This is not about the roster or the organization,” James writes, which pretty much flies in the face of weeks of speculation in which James was rumored to be going to Team X only if three other superstars signed along with him.
5. It’s honest James doesn’t shy away from the things that almost kept him from returning”
“The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.”
I love that. James has already admitted that he took what Clevelanders said about him to heart, and that it hurt him. Even the most hardened Cleveland fans have to appreciate James being so forthcoming.