LeBron James announced today that he is returning to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers, and for today, at least, Cleveland is the center of the sporting universe.
My friends up in Cleveland are thrilled about LeBron’s decision to return, and not just because it means that the Cavaliers might be able to bring home that elusive sports championship that Cleveland has hungered for for 50 years. It’s also because LeBron’s decision — announced and explained in a nice piece on the Sports Illustrated website — is a kind of recognition of the value of Cleveland, and Ohio, and hometown roots. The fact that an international figure like LeBron James acknowledges them, too, means something.
When LeBron James left, it made people angry — not just because he left, but because it was done so publicly and callously. Some people got rid of their LeBron Cavaliers gear; Russell modified his Cavs #23 jersey so that the name over the number on the back read “me” rather than “James.” But people can grow, mature, and change for the better, and LeBron’s announcement today, made in a carefully considered story rather than a glitzy hour-long special on ESPN, suggests that he has matured, too. I say, good for him!
Part of LeBron’s stated reason for returning is that he wanted to raise his family in Ohio. I can understand that motivation, too. Kish and I left Ohio right after college and I vowed never to return. However, after six great years in Washington, D.C., with a baby on the way, Ohio looked like an awfully attractive place to raise a family — and it was.
I’m sure there will be some Clevelanders who will cling to their bitter feelings about LeBron’s departure and argue that his decision to return wasn’t entirely for the altruistic reasons. I think most Clevelanders, however, will welcome him back with open arms, like the prodigal son returning — which is kind of what he actually is.