(Photo credit: Sports Illustrated)
CLEVELAND ( The Fan) LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The announcement was made shortly after noon on Friday via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated in a first-person essay from James.
Read James complete statement here.
My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didnt realize that four years ago. I do now, James told Jenkins. Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. Its where I walked. Its where I ran. Its where I cried. Its where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like Im their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me.
I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can.
The announcement ends nearly 11 days of speculation, rumors and reports that surrounded James future since he opted out of his contract with Miami last month.
I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasnt had that feeling in a long, long, long time. I always believed that Id return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didnt know when.
It also is a stunning about face from 4 years ago when James left the Cavaliers in for the Miami Heat where he went on to win 4 straight Eastern Conference titles and 2 NBA Championships. His departure was met with a scathing letter from Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert. Fans were heartbroken and angry.
James admitted that the backlash hurt him and his family deeply.
The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned seeing all that was hard for them, James told SI. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?
Friday Gilbert raced to Twitter to welcome James home.
Welcome Home @kingjames. I am excited for the fans and people of Cleveland and Ohio. No fans and people deserve a winner more than them.. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert tweeted.
The Cavaliers drafted James No. 1 overall in and he won the NBAs Rookie of the Year and the league MVP award twice while rewriting the franchises record books in 7 seasons.
James essay with SI ended simply: In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.
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“I’m not promising a championship,” wrote LeBron James in the press release-cum-open letter in Sports Illustrated that heralded his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. “I want to win next year, but I’m realistic.” Of course, nothing about James has ever been realistic. One crucial fact—the otherworldliness of his ability on the court—has occasioned a science-fictional life. His acquaintance with an absurd, ever-intensifying celebrity began in high school, and, in response to that fame, and to the varied fruits of his talent, he has been trailed ever since by an antiphony of hosannas and heckles, overstated in both directions. The Sports Illustrated essay was an admirable attempt to curb expectations, but the terms of the basketball-watching public’s engagement with James have been clear for far too long: we have seen nothing quite like him, and so we accept from him nothing less than the heretofore impossible. Nike notwithstanding, there are no mere “Witnesses” to James’s greatness. We have waited, worried, praised, parsed, criticized, kvelled, but never been content simply to watch. This—a kind of mutual activeness—is the real joy of fandom in the LeBron Era: James is a rich text, a better subject for exegesis, for a kind of participatory reading, than any player before him. (In this respect, at least, he bests Michael Jordan, comparisons with whom, in the coming weeks, are inevitable. Jordan was a great individual player who then became a “winner,” and an exceptionally “ruthless” competitor. But, while Jordan’s competitiveness has occasioned some retrospective psychological profiling, he was not, during his playing days, laid out on the Freudian couch the way James has been.)
Last night’s thrilling N.B.A. Finals finale—Cavs 93, Warriors 89—will be pored over for years to come, and rightly so. This latest of James’s three N.B.A. titles will eclipse the rest as the prime evidence for his place among the likes of Jordan, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, et al. Though the specifics of James’s performance—a triple double in the final game, two forty-plus-point outings before that, an underwhelming supporting cast, save Kyrie Irving—his triumph over the Warriors will be remembered mainly as a perfect piece of narrative. He was prophetic in that open letter, if unsuccessful in taming the fans: that first year went bad in the Finals, and so this was an unlikely redemptive exercise, something out of a string-scored sports movie. Game 7 started punch for punch. There were good signs for the Cavs: some aggression on the boards and on defense from Kevin Love, and a continuation of Kyrie Irving’s series-long adventure in impressive shotmaking—several mid-rangers skidded off the glass and through the net. James was calmly himself—a diet of drives to the rim and placid dishes to the open shooters around and behind him. Still, the most impressive thing happening was the reëmergence of the Warriors’ Draymond Green as a dominating factor in the series. Green hit three after three, at one point executing a balletic crossover-to-lefty-layup that threw his home crowd into cheering fits. At the half, Green had already amassed twenty-two points, six rebounds, and five assists, testament, yes, to his indispensability, but also, indirectly, to the idea that his suspension from Game 5 was a death knell for his team. I expect the sequence that gave rise to the suspension, a flick of Green’s fist toward James’s groin, in Game 4, to garner Zapruder-level scrutiny as LeBron’s legend—and the bittersweet story of the 73–9 Warriors—carries on. There’s something in it for the conspiracy theorists (the fix was in!), the advocates for James’s genius (the step he took over Green’s body before Green swiped at him might be read as a bit of canny baiting), and, perhaps rightly, those looking for a scapegoat: Green’s got a long summer ahead.
Anyway, the Warriors were up seven at the half, and, given the fact that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were due for their customary breakouts, there was every reason to think that they’d hold on.
Not so. In the third, Kyrie Irving—who may be the series’s main beneficiary in terms of new esteem, fully deserved—started in, again, with the layups. At one point, he hopped off the wrong foot, then flung an angular volley toward a corner of the backboard, where it dove, as if magnetized, through the rim. Irving has proved himself one of the great H-O-R-S-E players in recent memory. More back and forth; more inching toward the game’s close; more unstoppable drives and passes from James. James was especially impressive on defense, where, late in the game, he ruined what should have been—what would_ _have been, against any other gravity-bound player—a routine fastbreak by soaring into a fearsome, chasing block of Andre Iguodala, who looked as though he’d seen, and been directly addressed by, a six-foot-eight-inch-tall ghost. The game, still tied toward the end—and therefore still ripe, perennially ripe, for lit-critical attention—was won by another Irving dazzler, a totally guarded three-pointer that sailed through the hoop and into posterity.
The series, and the season, ended in tears, as these things often do. After several hugs, James crumpled floorward in dramatic fashion, holding his face. Expert that he is on the topic of his own person, and on the insane but somehow understandable attention that he attracts, he had to know that he was enacting an ending (one, as Irving later said, “for the books”)—at least until we ask for another.