LeBron James: ‘I’m coming home’
By Larry Fine
LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, announcing the move in a heartfelt letter that set off celebrations in the home state he infuriated in 2010 by fleeing via free agency to the Miami Heat.
James, in an exclusive essay with Sports Illustrated, said the move goes far beyond basketball.
“But this is not about the roster or the organization. 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,” the essay reads.
“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”
James said he sat down man-to-man with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to discuss the letter he wrote scolding James and calling him a coward following the infamous “Decision” to join the Heat.
“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?”
James is expected to sign a maximum contract with the Cavaliers, joining All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and the No. 1 overall draft picks the last two seasons -- Anthony Bennett (2013) and Andrew Wiggins. Cleveland could acquire forward Kevin Love from the Timberwolves in a deal that has been on the table contingent on James signing with the team.
The Cavaliers made two trades Wednesday that resulted in creating $21.7 million in salary cap space to make James an offer. Point guard Jarrett Jack was shipped to the Brooklyn Nets along with Sergey Karasev, and Tyler Zeller and a lottery protected first-round pick went to the Boston Celtics for a second-round pick as part of a three-team deal that also included Marcus Thornton.
James made expectations clear -- he is out to collect championships -- but warned it will not be easy. He said he will not have a party or a press conference, rather begin getting to work.
“I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver,” the essay read. “We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.”
Former teammates Ray Allen and Mike Miller are reportedly possibilities for the Cavaliers. Allen, 39, is contemplating retirement but said last month he would return if the chance to play with James was a possibility.
James won two NBA titles in four seasons with the Heat. Last season, he averaged 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6..4 assists per game. In 11 NBA seasons, he owns averages of 27.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists. He is also a 10-time All-Star and four-time MVP.