When LeBron James decided to take his talents back to Cleveland, Ohio it was a win-win for both the NBA all-star forward and Cavs fans throughout the world, or at least in the midwest. I tried to explain this on the debut of my radio show on July 12 (listen here) and have done so again in writing for Orlando Sports Mag earlier this month. Below is the full story that can be found on page five of Orlando Sports Mag. A story about the Orlando City Soccer Club and their fans also appears in the issue on page 28.
If you’ve ever moved away from home you know how hard it is to move back.
Even the most nostalgic of us knows this to be true. Each day away from the nest drives us further from the people we once were and ever closer to the possibilities of new adventures in the future.
Of course a salary of $42.1-million over two years could make anyone reconsider, such as is the case of NBA all-star forward LeBron James, who decided in July to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers after four successful years with the Miami Heat.
You know the story by now: Akron native returns home to Northeast Ohio to help struggling sports town claim its first major championship since 1964.
The thing is, even if James is unable to deliver a title to the area before retiring with the Cavs (if that should happen) he’ll have already done enough to make up for the way he publicly humiliated the region by announcing The Decision on national television.
That James chose to return to a rusted and decrepit area overcome with crime, unemployment, and few options to combat either, is a message of hope for people still calling Northeast Ohio home.
It’s as if Cleveland fans have already won. With James on the court with the Cavs anything is possible as they’ll always be in contention, much more so than the lowly Browns or average Indians.
And the healing can finally begin for fans who still felt spurned by what they perceived to be a player’s betrayal in an era where athletes continue to jump from team to team no matter where they were born or raised.
Whoever James is as a person, father or player today was made possible by way of letting his guard down and getting away from the comforts of all he’s ever know in Ohio.
The maturation process he experienced while in Miami has paved the way for his being able to forgive Cavs owner Dan Gilbert for how he handled James’ departure while also humbling him enough to admit to his own faults.
Maybe growing old and wise isn’t such a tough thing to do after all, as long as you embrace the journey along the way.
The greatest basketball player of this generation doesn’t need to win another championship on the court to validate his accomplishments as an athlete at the highest level of his craft. Being the people’s champion back home will resonate much more long after he’s gone.