For once, it wasn’t about championships.
It wasn’t really about the roster, the owner or the state of the organization either. This time, it was bigger than basketball for LeBron James, and he had no problem letting the world know how he feels.
It was about home.
It was about feeling the warm embrace of the fans who, in his own words, almost feel like his parents. It was about bringing a savior to a place where he was previously a villain. It was about finishing what he started and making good on the promise of bringing a trophy back to Northeast Ohio, the first in 50 years.
But most of all, it was about home.
Nobody can truly understand the power of home until they leave, and without going off to college after graduation, LeBron James never had that opportunity. I loved hearing him compare these last four years in Miami to going away to school, because just as college does for most people, Miami helped LeBron grow up.
He learned how to be a champion. He learned how to carry himself and how to respond in the face of adversity. He learned the importance of taking on responsibility for his mistakes and promising to only get better. He learned how to be a man.
And so the man coming back to Cleveland in 2014 is a far cry from the spoiled superstar who took his talents to South Beach in the summer of 2010. Even the eloquently written letter in Sports Illustrated to announce his intentions to return to Cleveland is a shining example of just how far James has come.
He spoke of how important it is for him to bring a championship to his hometown and how excited he is to mentor young players like Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett. But even more, he spoke about what this place means to him, something we have never heard come out of the King’s mouth.
For Cleveland fans, it was vindication. He DOES want to be here, he DOES love playing in front of us, he DOES want to be a part of something special in Cleveland, no matter what’s going on elsewhere. It was the first time that our city’s son has gone on the record and declared his love for this area and the passion that makes it tick. It was everything Cleveland fans needed to hear from LeBron. It was perfect. But this move didn’t have to do with redemption either, though I’m sure LeBron has no issue getting the media and fans off his back.
It had to do with growing up. It had to do with sitting down and talking through differences, as James did with Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert. It had to do with his children, who he wants to raise in his hometown, with the people who helped him grow up. It had to do with responsibility, owning up to mistakes and not being afraid to say, “I was wrong.” So when you run into a Cleveland fan who isn’t forgiving and says they don’t want LeBron back, be sure to remind them of what’s different. Tell them how he’s grown and matured, and tell them that forgiveness goes both ways. He said that this is where he wants to be, he chose it over the glitz and glamour of Miami, and he took us back.
He forgave us.
It’s time for all of us to do the same. Welcome home LeBron, it’s good to have you back.