Hey all you sports fans, especially NBA fans. Remember that summer night 4 years ago when LeBron held that self-serving press conference and announced that he was going to take his talents to South Beach? Remember the reaction of Cleveland fans to that announcement? It was like the world had ended in Cleveland. I still remember the ceremony when a bunch of disgruntled fans held a ceremony and threw their LeBron jerseys into a bon fire. He was labeled a traitor among other things. The owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers even got into the mix by writing a very sour grapes message about his departure. In that letter, he proclaimed that his Cavs would win a title before LeBron’s team. Well that prediction turned out to be rather wrong! Now flashback 4 years later; did anyone see this coming? All of sudden, LeBron is now a hero in Cleveland. People love him and want him to run for mayor! Funny how sports fans can be so fickle! All is forgiven I guess for now!
A few years ago, I was having a conversation with one of my co-workers during the lunch hour. It was shortly after Miami (LeBron’s new team) had won their first title. The topic of LeBron James came up and how many titles the Miami Heat would win. I felt the Heat would win a few more before LBJ would move on and sign with another team. My co-worker strongly felt that he was going to sign with the Knicks or the Lakers when his opt out came up in a couple of years. I made a bold predication that LeBron was going back to Cleveland. My co-worker nearly choked on his sandwich! “What have you been smoking, Mark?” “Are you crazy?” was his reply. Why would LeBron go back to a small market place which totally hates him and labels him a traitor for big timing them? He felt LeBron would consider the bigger markets for more endorsement opportunities. We even made a small wager. I look forward to picking up my prize this week! Sorry about patting myself on the back but I could just see this coming.
It should really come as no surprise that LeBron decided to opt out of his contract and return to Cleveland. It became very apparent that this would happen early this summer when the Heat were trounced in the NBA finals. Why would LeBron return to Miami? They are were a very aging and overrated team this year. The fact that they played in the weak Eastern Conference only made them look better than they actually were. If they played in the Western Conference, they may not have survived the first round of the playoffs. Dwayne Wade is near the end of his career, Chris Bosh is a nice player but not a superstar and the rest? Who really scares you outside of those three? Ray Allen is still a solid player but isn’t he like 50 years old? Resigning with an old and aging team cannot be very appealing to any free agent.
Talk of him signing with either New York or the Lakers is just some sort of far-fetched dream which has nothing to do with winning. If a player is really concerned about winning, why would they play for either franchises? Sure it would look sexy to have James playing with either Kobe or Carmelo, but that would not automatically bring titles to either teams. Kobe is nearly at the end of his career and is there enough basketballs on the court to keep Carmelo Anthony and LeBron happy? The supporting talent with those teams is mediocre as well, similar to Miami.
Now look at Cleveland, James can play with one of the best young point guards in the league, a position that is becoming very important to any team’s success. Kyrie Irving is one of the best young players in the league and will only get better from playing with LeBron. They drafted a promising young player in Andrew Wiggins who could also benefit greatly from playing with James. The Cavs are a young, upcoming and fresh team. If I were an established free agent such as James, I would rather go to an upcoming and young team as opposed to an aging team. The future looks very bright in Cleveland for the next 5 years. LeBron can end his career with a chance to win a few more titles, play in his home state and mentor younger superstar players. It is a win, win situation for him. It is also a fresh start for him and another set of new challenges which could help him emotionally and mentally.
I personally think it is great that James is debunking the myth that NBA players are only interested in going to big markets instead of playing for smaller ones like Cleveland. LeBron showed a lot of courage and maturity by choosing Cleveland. He could have remembered the way he was booed and mistreated after he left and said “screw you Cleveland” But he forgave and remembered where his true roots are. In my opinion, he made the right choice and Cleveland fans will soon be rewarded. This story would have been totally unthinkable just 4 years ago. Miami was supposed to be a dynasty for the next decade and win all those titles. Why would LeBron even think about returning to Cleveland and the owner who condemned him? This is a perfect example of why you can never say never in sports.