Home is where the heart is for Cleveland prodigal LeBron James

When he decided to leave for Miami four years ago his exit was carried live by ESPN

Sat, Jul 12, 2014, 14:00

The other was to return to Cleveland for what will be a remarkable homecoming. The Cavaliers began shifting the furniture, clearing players to leave space within the salary cap to pay James $20.7 million next season. Beyond the boardrooms, the fun started. Crowds began to assemble outside James’s home in Bath, Ohio, and photographs emerged of trucks removing his cars from his Miami pad, all taken as proof that he was quitting Florida. But his evasiveness was in contrast to his last move. James, possibly in a mischievous streak, said precisely nothing about his intentions. The big man went to ground. In doing so, he inadvertently pressed pause on NBA off-season trading. Chris Bosh, for instance, could not decide on joining the Houston Rockets until he knew that James was leaving Miami.

With with every passing hour, the certainty that James was preparing to return to Cleveland was deeper set and the likelihood that he would jilt the city twice, by exercising his free will, receded with it.

James is a contradictory character.

In some ways he courts attention, with the on-court preciousness whenever he is fouled and the incessant cribbing at referees. He is a scoring machine who is often not selfish enough. But off the court he is courteous and grounded and is a perfect NBA role model.

Yesterday, he made his decision in a manner more in keeping with his personality: by way of a first-person interview which appeared on Sports Illustrated’s website. In a few paragraphs he made clear that just because he left Cleveland didn’t mean he forgot about the place.

Returning to Cleveland is a brave and smart decision. When he left four years ago, the general assumption was that he was gone for good. The infamous letter penned by Gilbert disappeared from the club’s website in recent days. For James to return to play under Gilbert will mean swallowing his pride.

The Cleveland Browns have never won the Superbowl. The Indians have not won the World Series since 1948. The Cavaliers appeared in the NBA finals just once, when James led them there in 2007 only to be swept 4-0 by San Antonio. James is 26 years old now and has time enough to assert himself as the greatest of all time. This weekend he makes Cleveland the envy of the basketball world.

So LeBron James will take a limousine through Rio for the final and maybe he will think about how sport and athletes can influence a city. It can’t be a bad feeling to have the power to make an entire city of people feel great about who they are and where they live.

You can’t go home again. But there are exceptions.

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