No one saw this coming. That’s what makes LeBron James’ announcement of signing with the Cavaliers yesterday afternoon this much special. The stunning news makes all of this enjoyable.
This was a great day for the NBA, Cleveland and sports. The league needed James to come back to play in Cleveland for storyline and intrigue purposes. Cleveland sports fans deserved this moment after they were subjected to humiliation by James in announcing he was leaving Cleveland and taking his talent to South Beach on ESPN in 2010. It’s great for sports that a star is coming back home to play, so that he can make things right.
James made the right decision of spending his next four years back to where he started his NBA career in Cleveland. This is a chance for him to change his image for good after being ripped for taking the easy way out in winning a title in Miami. There’s no question the criticism bothered him. Most importantly, he has a chance to enhance his legacy by winning championships with a supporting cast that is still learning to play basketball.
If James wins one or more championships in Cleveland, he would be the greatest player in NBA history. He is the best player in the game right now, and in his prime, he can win at least five or six championships. To do this in Cleveland would make a nice storybook ending of what should be a Hall of Fame career, especially after the way he left few years ago.
Winning in Cleveland would mean something for James. It would make him a beloved athlete in sports history. He would be a hero for life. Cleveland has not won a title for 50 years, so if James ends the title drought, he becomes a legendary athlete. He knows this as much as anyone. That was his motivation to play in Cleveland.
The best player in the NBA needed a challenge. Winning in Miami may have been boring for him. He certainly played like it at times this season where he did not bring it. In Cleveland, it’s going to be a different story.
As much as we like to see the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals next season, this is not going to be easy. The Bulls, Wizards and Pacers are going to be good. Yes, it helps the Cavaliers have James, but the team features unproven players that still need to know how to play basketball and how to win in Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. It’s going to take time for these guys to jell, especially against veteran playoff teams such as the Bulls and Pacers.
James knows that, but he is ready to accept the challenge and get to work. This is good for him at this point of his career. This will keep him motivated and interested. In sports, it’s more about the journey of winning the championship than winning the prize. It’s something the one-time Cavalier appreciated in his time with the Heat. He wants to apply that knowledge to his new teammates in Cleveland. He wants to make all this work.
The Cavaliers are going to be appointment television for the first time since James returned to Cleveland as the enemy in 2010. Everyone wants the former Heat star to do his thing on the court. Everyone wants to see how he handles the challenge of leading Cleveland to a championship.
This time, most of America will be rooting for the King than against him. It wasn’t long ago when James was beloved when he was a Cavalier. It was after the Decision, folks turned on him, and understandably so. Time clearly did not heal all wounds when he won titles. He knew going back to Cleveland was the only thing that he could win people over, and that’s one reason he signed with the Cavaliers.
From reading Twitter and listening to sports radio, there was celebration around the country when news broke out about James’ decision. This decision is much better than the last decision he made. For one thing, he was humble in making his decision to go to Cleveland by talking about playing for Northeast Ohio and how he is ready for the challenge in a story he told to Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. Second of all, he did not have a presser to make this announcement.
James is ready to get to work. He wants to make the most of his return. He knows his homecoming only means something if he wins a championship.
As much as coming back to Cleveland is a great story for him, he is not doing this for the pomp and circumstances. This is serious business for him.
The story is just the beginning.
This ride is going to be a good one.
We will all be watching what James is doing, and we will root him on.
Contact or follow Leslie Monteiro at @LightRodWriter