LeBron Goes Home
When I first heard the rumors about LeBron going back to Cleveland, I rolled my eyes. I figured it was July, and that bored NBA beat reporters were giving voice to even the most absurd rumors. And I found it hard to believe that LeBron would be willing to work for Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert again.
But the LeBron-to-Cleveland whispers didn’t disappear. Instead they got louder. By Friday morning, even before LeBron’s decision was announced, I thought he was going to Cleveland.
Like many NBA fans, I was furious when LeBron went to Miami. Years later, my anger seems irrational. LeBron wanted to play with his friends and win championships. What was wrong with that? Of course, people didn’t like how LeBron announced his decision — in an over-the-top ESPN special called The Decision — or his destination. Sure, Miami won a championship with Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal, but many regard their fans as among the worst in the NBA — front-runners who didn’t deserve a player as great as LeBron.
But time passed, and LeBron seemed to mature. He won two championships. He was well-spoken and thoughtful in interviews. He didn’t get into trouble or cause any scandals. He married his longtime girlfriend and appeared to be a devoted father. When the Heat won their first championship with LeBron, Dwayne and Chris Bosh, I found it hard to begrudge LeBron his success. Truly great players deserve to win championships. Did I really want to talk about LeBron in the same breath Charles Barkley and Karl Malone and Steve Nash — great players who never won a ring?
My reaction to LeBron going back to Cleveland is pretty much the opposite of my reaction to LeBron going to Miami. I think this is a great decision. I think it’s going to be fun. If LeBron can help Cleveland win its first championship in 50 years, well, that will be a real accomplishment. If he doesn’t, well, nobody will be able to accuse him of backing away from a challenge.
LeBron is from Akron, and I suspect that his fondness for northeast Ohio, as well as his desire to win a championship in his home state, is genuine. His friends are from Ohio. His family is from Ohio. Sometimes the pull of home is strong.
I’m a Boston Celtics fan, but I went to college in Northeast Ohio, and I can think of far worse things than the Cleveland Cavaliers finally winning a championship. Which, even with LeBron, there’s no guarantee they’ll win, even in the weak Eastern Conference. But they’ve got a very good shot. LeBron is a better all-around player than he was when he left Cleveland. He’s in his prime. He’s won before. And signing LeBron catapults Cleveland to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Who is better? The Pacers could be very good, but Roy Hibbert’s poor play during the second half of last season troubles me. Chicago just signed Pau Gasol, but I doubt we’ll ever see a fully healthy Derrick Rose again. The Knicks just signed Carmelo, but come on — Carmelo is not going to lead the Knicks to a championship. The Wizards could be very good, but they’re not going to be better than Cleveland.
Part of the reason I got so angry when LeBron signed with Miami was because I was sure that he, Wade and Bosh could win a championship together. Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t win more. But I’m not sure LeBron can win a championship with the Cavaliers can win a championship. Oh, I’d certainly bet on him. But the outcome is far from certain. Which is going to make next season a lot more interesting, and a lot more fun.
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