Four years ago LeBron James announced in an ESPN special that he would leave behind his birthplace of Ohio and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that drafted him first overall in 2003, to continue his career with the Miami Heat. Today, James announced, in a letter published by Sports Illustrated, that he will return home to Cleveland, to rejoin the Cavaliers for the 2014-15 NBA season.
In Miami, James joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a ‘big Three’, and over four seasons together, the trio led Miami to two NBA championships and four consecutive division and Conference titles. Miami’s 2014 season ended with the Heat coming up just short of their third straight league championship, as they lost in the NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs 4 games to 1, in a best-of-7 series.
After the Finals ended, all three players opted out of the final year of their contracts with the Heat. In doing so, it was expected that the group would stay together, and the move was to free up enough salary money for all three players to re-sign.
Upon becoming free agents, Bosh thought over a max-contract offer he received from the Houston Rockets, James contemplated his options, and Wade waited. In the end, LeBron decided that it was time to go home.
As he stated in his letter, “I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland.”
When James left Cleveland in 2010, fans felt betrayed. He was like a son to the people of Ohio. He had grown up before their very eyes, through high school in Akron, with the Cavaliers, and now, he was moving on. Fans responded by burning his jersey, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert published a letter chastising James, calling his departure “heartless”, and fans across the NBA criticized him as arrogant and egotistical for the manner in which he announced his plans to join Miami, in an hour-long ESPN special known as The Decision.
James wrote in his letter released Friday, “”Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids … Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.”
Think of today as LeBron James’s graduation. He leaves Miami- a champion, an MVP, an older, wiser, more mature athlete and man- and returns home with his sights set on providing the people who watched him grow with a championship of their own. And like the prodigal son, the majority of Ohioans seem ready to welcome him back with open arms.