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Blog

He's Coming Home

Tim McCarthy

Illustration by Robert Carter

Cover of  Cleveland Plain Dealer on 11/12/14

LeBron will finish his career in Cleveland. He wants to be liked and cares too much of what people think of him. He’ll come back, win a championship and it will be the best sport story ever told.

This was something I heard after LeBron started to get tons of negative feedback for "The Decision". It didn't come from a credible insider or one of ESPN's talking heads, but from a friend who is a huge fan of just about any sport. You know the type; a guy who is fueled by competition, feeds into every rivalry, and would attend a high school volleyball championship game if the tickets were the right price. What I respect most about his opinions is that he has such a great understanding of sports at all levels. Regardless of whether it involves a fan, athlete or management, he understands why decisions are made. Ever since the news broke that LeBron was coming back to Cleveland, I could not stop thinking about what my friend said 4 years ago. 

Despite losing the 2014 NBA Finals to the Spurs (who by the way, still manage to fall under the radar during all of this), LeBron and the Miami Heat were able to get to 4 consecutive NBA Finals. Even if they only won 2 of them, getting there 4 times was an extremely difficult feat, especially when there was a target on their back the entire time and most people were rooting against them. The "not 1, not 2..." line might have been the dumbest thing LeBron ever said, but the plan him, Wade, Bosh and Reilly put together was actually working. The Heat were winning games and competing to win multiple rings. The free agency rumors were entertaining after The Finals because it fed my basketball fix, but I kept telling myself there's no way he's leaving...Right?

At the time, I wanted to believe everything my friend said. As a sports fan myself, I couldn't believe what he did to the Cavs and especially how he handled it. I understood why he would want to do it – Miami, playing with friends, etc. but could never get behind it as a good decision. Even being a desperate Knicks fan, I always wanted him to stay in Cleveland. Joining the Heat was the biggest heel move ever made it sports and it made me hate him. Now I know he could care less what I thought, but LeBron isn't an idiot and a star that big can't escape the media. Having the Cleveland fan base turn on him might have been tough, but millions of basketball fans rooting against you can't be fun either. If you had the chance to reverse that, you would...Right?

LeBron's actions during the 2010 free agency will never be erased. The idea to hold a 1 hour press event to announce that you are leaving your hometown team and are "taking your talents to South Beach" was a bad idea. Someone might have convinced him that it was a good idea to do The Decision but at least he realizes it was a mistake.

Now someone might have influenced him to write the "I'm Coming Home" letter too but it doesn't matter. In my opinion, it was one of the best things he has ever done in his career. Announcing you are returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers is an admirable move but the way he announced it is just as important. It was a NASTY breakup between LeBron and the Cavs. Jerseys were burned. A simple "I'm sorry, but I'm coming back." wasn't going to cut it. 

I think LeBron grew up over the past 4 years (really liked that college analogy). He could of held another big event to announce his return. Instead, he collected his thoughts, wrote a public letter that addressed a bunch of items, and then bounced down to Brazil to watch the World Cup so he could avoid the media. It was a brilliant move. Personally, my feelings about him completely flipped once I read it. 

I’m ready to accept the challenge.
I’m coming home.
— LeBron James via SI.com

Regardless of what happens next season, championship or not, this is an incredible sports story and will by far be the best one ever told if he can bring home a championship to Cleveland. I think LeBron finally realized that winning multiple championships with your friends in Miami is great, but it will never top winning just one for Cleveland...his hometown, by the team who originally drafted him and being cheered by true fans. 

This is why sports continues to be the best reality TV show ever. CRAZY SHIT HAPPENS! Maybe referees decide games. Maybe the "Basketball Gods" exist. Maybe athletes do care what fans think. All I know is that I will start to root for him again and hope he brings Cleveland a championship.

In the meantime, I'll be counting the days until the first Cavs home game and the highlight reel with this song

Illustration by Michael Walchalk