Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LeBron's inevitable homecoming

LeBron to Cleveland?!
Friday afternoon as I drove from Atlanta to Savannah to enjoy a slow, lazy and, of course, spirit-filled weekend (it's Savannah, after all), we heard BREAKING NEWS: LeBron James is returning home!

Well color me surprised! Just kidding, I'm not. Had LeBron chosen to stay in Miami I would have been shocked, because I believe that ending up back in Cleveland was always LeBron's plan. LeBron was forced to leave Cleveland in the first place because they didn't fully realize his worth and wouldn't build a championship team around him.

After the 2014 Finals,
who didn't see this coming?
LeBron always wanted to end up back in Cleveland. But he needed to leave in order to gain the power and sway to get what he needed to bring a championship to his hometown team. He could only get that power by leaving and doing it elsewhere. He had to make a point to Dan Gilbert: even though he loves his hometown, if they weren't going to surround him with talent to win a championship, he was going to find somewhere that would. He did that in Miami—with two championships and back-to-back MVP awards (bringing his total to four, just one behind MJ). Before, Gilbert seemed to think either LeBron could do it on his own with minimal surrounding talent, or that LeBron loved home so much that he would just accept Gilbert’s refusal to spend the money necessary to bring the right players to Cleveland. Now that Gilbert has seen what a LeBron-less Cavs team looks like, and that his superstar won’t sit back and just take it, his wallet is flying open.

But there’s another reason LeBron left Cleveland. It’s because a superstar of his caliber can't be in a town like Cleveland forever. It’s not like Jeter with the Yankees or Kobe with the Lakers – he couldn't stay with one team his whole career because his team was in Cleveland, not New York or LA; he had to get out and live somewhere a superstar lives for a few years to become “LEBRON JAMES.” Miami gave him the prestige, the “it factor,” to go along with his name. He lived it up for four years, and now he’s ready to settle down back home. LeBron got everything he wanted out of his time in Miami – two rings, the superstar lifestyle and the pull necessary to make this move back to Cleveland, where they will now do whatever he wants.

The old sweatshirt that was the
2014 Final's Miami Heat
LeBron's exit from Miami became was clear to me, and anyone else watching, during this year’s Finals. The Heat had become LeBron's favorite old sweatshirt — warm and cozy but, in reality, all worn out and he knew it was time to get rid of it. The magic was gone and would not return. The past four years with LeBron, Wade and Bosh were truly special, but by this year’s Finals they were running on fumes. I knew LeBron was gone because you could read the frustration on his face; he had gotten what he wanted out of his time in Miami and he was done.

There was no “Decision” this time. In fact, I don’t think there was much of a decision for LeBron to even make; his return to Cleveland was inevitable and inescapable. When a superstar like LeBron James keeps a home in AKRON, there is a reason: because it is home and that’s where—excuse the pun—his heart is.

Now that Cleveland lost LeBron once, they are going to do everything in their power to make him happy. What makes LeBron happy? Championships to add to his legacy. Cleveland has a better foundation upon which LeBron can build numerous more championships, with young talent like Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins. They also have the cap room with which to bring in key role players, and LeBron is someone people will take a pay cut to play alongside.

Every NBA player over age 30.
Now LeBron looks to cement his legacy as one of the greatest of all time by bringing Cleveland, his hometown, its first title in any sport in 50 years. I don’t think there is anyone who doubts he will do it. This was his plan all along.

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