On Friday, the four-time NBA MPV announced his decision to return to his roots, the Cleveland Cavaliers, spurning the Miami Heat and sending to knock down the whole league and basketball fans.
For LeBron’s native team, a sports town routinely snakebitten, it’s hard to overstate the importance of this moment.
When James, famously took “his talents to South Beach” four years ago, jilted fans burned jerseys in the streets like letters from an ex-girlfriend. He was considered to be a traitor or even worse. The team’s owner penned a childishly angry, all-caps Comic Sans letter condemning the Akron, Ohio, native.
None of that vitriol went away as the NBA star soon won two titles with his Miami team and became the undisputed best player in the game.
But now the legend is back home, and with James and rookie Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, Cleveland has arguably sports’ two most-talked-about athletes.
The spotlight shines bright on Northeast Ohio, where, as LeBron has previously noted, “nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”
“The politician in James understands the need to coax the community back to embracing him, but from the looks of the spontaneous public celebrations throughout Cleveland, he needn’t have bothered,” writes Reuters.
He’s been welcomed back with open arms.
“I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming,” LeBron explains.
“But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
The NBA legend continues: “When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”
“I’m not promising a championship,” he admits. “I know how hard that is to deliver. 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.”
“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.”