Four years ago, LeBron James sat in front of a camera with Jim Gray at a Boys and Girls Club and broke the hearts of Cleveland Cavaliers fans by announcing he was going to sign with the Miami Heat. Friday, he did his best to mend the wounds by announcing he was returning to his hometown team. And instead of doing it in front of cameras, this time he published an article about it on SI.com.
“I’m coming home,” James said in the article, which was told to Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins.
“Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. 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. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me,” James said. “I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
According to him, the decision even surprised him a little:
I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.
And what about all the vitriol thrown his way by Cavaliers fans after his exit? He addressed that, too:
To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. 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?
He didn’t go on to make the same mistake he made when he bolted to Miami — which is to say he didn’t guarantee any championships. But he did promise hard work.
“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have,” he concluded. “I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”
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