LeBron James sealed his reputation as a winner with the Miami Heat.
He’s been known as the best player in the NBA since around 2008. But with the Heat, he silenced the critics who said he couldn’t win rings. Two NBA titles and four finals appearances in four seasons will do that for a man’s reputation. Indeed, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh ran roughshod over the league in four years.
But even with the success, and the titles, and the adulation, there was always that question as to whether James would yearn to return to Cleveland. People always wondered whether the wounds of his exit in 2010 could heal enough for him to find his way back to Ohio.
LBJ answered that question on Friday morning, announcing his intention to play a second stint with the Cavaliers, and to play for Dan Gilbert, the owner who aired him out so publicly, and so personally in the wake of "the decision."
Basketball-wise, it’s a solid move. It’s clear that Miami’s run was over. Wade’s knees are a shell of what they once were, and LeBron’s supporting cast grew old around him, painfully obvious with the five-game beating they took at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA finals. The Heat were simply not the same team.
But, to steal a line from the King himself, James’ return to Ohio is deeper than basketball. Very few athletes have identified with their hometown in the manner that James has with Akron. He simply never fully left his roots. He kept his home there.
He still employs his friends from high school to this day.
He does countless charities, and has given a steady stream of money to his former school, St. Vincent-St. Mary’s. He never closed the door on rejoining the Cavaliers, and always maintained that it would be nice to someday return and lead the Cavs to a championship.
Now, he has the chance to accomplish just that. And if he leads Cleveland to just one title, I maintain that it will trump everything he’s accomplished with the Miami Heat. Can he do it? He has a better chance than he did when he left. Kyrie Irving is one of the best young point guards in the NBA. Andrew Wiggins could be the Scottie Pippen to LBJ’s Michael Jordan. Dion Waitors is a potentially lethal scorer at shooting guard.
So the pieces are there for James to succeed. And now, he’s reinvented a ton of goodwill by returning. Quite simply, LeBron James coming back to Cleveland is one of the best stories you will see.
Can it get better by him leading the Cavs a title?
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