I’ll admit it. I was right there with you, overcome with LeBron James fatigue. It seemed every talking head in the universe with a scintilla of basketball knowledge had migrated over to ESPN and was holding court on where King James was heading in NBA free agency.
The most sought-after monarch this side of Prince Harry had people awaiting his pronouncement on which team and city he would grace after exercising his free agency contract clause and high-tailing it out of Miami, where he had won two NBA titles with the Heat.
Then, just as it seemed the speculation had reached a fever pitch, James, through SI.com, announced in a startlingly heartfelt essay he was heading home. He was going back to Cleveland, which he had spurned in 2010 to go to Miami in search of his sport’s holy grail.
This announcement bore none of the gaudy residue of his announcement in 2010 with ESPN putting on a near-stage show for James’ free agency choice. It was a display that left James with as many haters as fans in the aftermath.
But he has learned his lesson. He is older, has his championships, has wealth beyond the imagination of most of us, yet still longs to be home.
The Akron, Ohio, native, who entered the NBA right out of high school, has always maintained close ties to northeast Ohio, including sponsoring school kids.
His reasons for now choosing Cleveland brought about shades of Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant in that it revealed there is more to the man than slam dunks.
There is heart, depth and emotions.
Just as Durant revealed his true self in his emotional MVP Award acceptance earlier this year, James treaded similar ground in his essay for SI.com.
“Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio,” James wrote. “It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart.”
And now he is coming home.
“I want kids in Northeast Ohio ... to realize that there’s no better place to grow up,” he continued. “Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.”
And if ever there was a town that needed a shot of self-esteem, it’s Cleveland, the city along Lake Erie that has been saddled with the nickname “the mistake by the lake” and whose dearth of professional sports championships make an Oklahoma summer drought seem like a mere dry spell.
To understand the emotional impact James’ announcement had in Cleveland, imagine if Oklahoma City had a Major League Baseball team and Mickey Mantle had returned to play in OKC. Yeah, it’s something like that.
A grand slam and slam dunk all rolled into one.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the
News & Eagle. Contact him at email@example.com.