CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The announcement was made shortly after noon on Friday via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated in a first-person essay from James.
“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now,” James told Jenkins. “Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, 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. But it drives me.
“I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can.”
The announcement ends nearly 11 days of speculation, rumors and reports that surrounded James’ future since he opted out of his contract with Miami last month.
“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. … I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when.”
It also is a stunning about face from 4 years ago when James left the Cavaliers in 2010 for the Miami Heat where he went on to win 4 straight Eastern Conference titles and 2 NBA Championships. His departure was met with a scathing letter from Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert. Fans were heartbroken and angry.
James admitted that the backlash hurt him and his family deeply.
“The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them,” James told SI. “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?”
Friday Gilbert raced to Twitter to welcome James home.
“Welcome Home @kingjames. I am excited for the fans and people of Cleveland and Ohio. No fans and people deserve a winner more than them…..” Cavs owner Dan Gilbert tweeted.
The Cavaliers drafted James No. 1 overall in 2003 and he won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year and the league MVP award twice while rewriting the franchise’s record books in 7 seasons.
James’ essay with SI ended simply: “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.”
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