LeBron James let the media twist in the wind as he thought about where he would play next year. He kept quiet and kept the decision to himself. He wanted to make sure this was the right decision for himself and his career. At 30 years old, James has won his championships (two of them, not three or four) and he has made plenty of money through endorsements and grown his personal brand and entrepreneurial empire.
Entering a new phase in his career, with uncertainty surrounding the Heat, James had the opportunity to reshape his story and reshape his legacy in a major way.
And with a simple 140-character tweet from Sports Illustrated, James changed the NBA again. With a simple sentence he set things right for so many of his most devoted fans.
“I’m coming home.”
James announced in an essay told to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated that he was returning to the Cavaliers after four years with the Miami Heat.
I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. 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.
James noted in his letter that he was always a Cleveland and Ohio guy. It always had a special place for him. Going to Miami was like his going to college, an experience he did not get. He needed to grow as a person.
That is a tough thing to explain in the moment but something that takes tremendous maturity to realize. Probably a lot more than people gave James credit for at the time.
This time around, he weighed everything. He thought about what his wife and his children’s life would be like and the life he wanted for them. He thought about his legacy and building a championship from the ground up with a new organization (and his old organization) after joining forces, so to speak, in Miami.
He recognized the path would not be easy. James said he did not expect to win a championship this season with the Cavaliers. He said he recognized how much work it would take to win with a new group and players, like Kyrie Irving, who had never made the Playoffs before. Now they carry the weight of expectation on their shoulders.
That can be a heavy burden.
James learned to carry that heavy burden in Miami to success. He comes back to Cleveland knowing how to lift his team past that point he could not get to before. James is a better player and person, more prepared to lead and win.
Maybe that will lead to his fulfillment of the promise he made when he was younger in his rookie year, naive to the sacrifice it takes to win a NBA title.
He still wants to deliver a title to Cleveland. There is no doubt about it. It still means so much to him.
James is back in Cleveland now, ready to deliver.