Legacy, Titles, and The Return of the King
(photo credit - CleveScene.com)
By: Aaron J. Pellot
For the past two weeks, the NBA has been held hostage, not from the thought of a lockout, not from a Donald Sterling-like scandal, but under speculation of where the best player in the NBA would be playing next. This morning, in a Sports Illustrated exclusive (as told to Lee Jenkins), LeBron James told the world “I’m coming home”. This is the literal example of Diddy’s “I’m coming home”, the lyrics stating “Let the rain wash away, all the pain of yesterday. I know my kingdom awaits, and they’ve forgiven my mistakes…I’m coming home.” While many were annoyed by the time it took to make this decision, or how it happened, none of those things matters….because the “Return of the king” is real.
In what could be the most significant letter written in the NBA since Michael Jordan’s “I’m Back”, Cleveland gets its hero, its prodigal son, and its proclaimed king. LeBron means more to the city of Cleveland than I will ever know, but in his letter to Sports Illustrated, LeBron describes almost every moment of his life, stating “[Northeast Ohio] is 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….I sometimes feel like I’m their son”. While I was in the crowd of thinking LeBron stays 1-2 more years in Miami, before finishing his career in Cleveland, this story line is a beautiful one. Not only is this full circle for LeBron, and the city of Cleveland, but a storybook ending for what could be the greatest player of this generation. While this isn’t even close to “the end” for LeBron, it’s safe to assume this is how it’s going to end, in Cleveland. The pride of Akron, “The Chosen One”, drafted number 1 overall, who bled, fought, but failed to bring his city what he always dreamed of giving them. After 7 years, he leaves, and wins championships in glamour, all while his city suffers through the worst overall record since his departure, but now….he returns.
LeBron didn’t just leave; he left with a painful, heart crushing exit. Not only was his city heartbroken that their hero seemingly was rejecting the love and embrace they always had for him, but they were angry in how he did it. While “The Decision” may not have been the best way to depart to Miami, many agree a change was needed for LeBron, in order to chase the title he ever so dreamed of. The most shocking reaction from “The Decision” was the infamous letter written from Cavs owner Dan Gilbert (credit ESPN), which seemingly was the one of the main reasons of skepticism (including from myself) in the reality of LeBron James returning to Cleveland. LeBron confronts this issue head on in his announcement stating,
“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?”
If you were not a LeBron James fan before, it’s tough understand how you could still feel that way after reading his letter. This is bigger than basketball, he knows that, we all know that. If you’re a Cleveland fan who was upset in 2010, be happy. If you’re a Miami Heat fan, don’t be upset, he gave you FOUR straight Finals appearances, and two titles. If you’re the fan of another NBA team, don’t ridicule the Cleveland fans who backtrack….because “It’s not crazy…it’s sports.” Sports breed emotion, fans are fickle, and the truth is only seasonal when it comes to the topic.
As LeBron will continue to chase the ghost of Michael Jordan, which he may or may never catch, this sets up a different type of legacy. This is about the same kid from Akron, that never forgot about his city, and acknowledges there’s unfinished business from the initial goal he had when entering the league. This time will be different; there will be growing pains, tough moments, and failures he didn’t have to experience in Miami. James acknowledges “This is not about the roster or the organization”, but this is about something far more than that. James can say that, and while this may be about a return about Cleveland, let’s not forget, this is about basketball as well. A newer, younger roster to play into the future with, is a simple decision. That being said, LeBron knows his meaning to the city, something I will never know or understand…and is ready to confront the new challenges in front of him. With challenges, maybe fun will be restored the franchise as well, the same fun that was had before. The “picture snapping”, the powder throwing, the laughs and good times we saw in the first go-around with the franchise. As LeBron makes THIS new decision, a new turn in the legacy of LeBron James is born. A legacy the NBA, Akron, and the rest of us are excited to watch. Congrats Cleveland….your king has returned.