On July 8, 2010 LeBron James became the most hated player in the NBA. After seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, James made a public announcement that he was heading to Miami to join the Heat. Free agency moves happen all the time in professional sports, but this wasn’t just any free agent. LeBron was the face of Cleveland and his decision to leave devastated a city. A city that had gone 45 years without a championship had just lost their only hope of winning an NBA title.
Why would LeBron leave a city who loved him so much? The answer is simple, he wanted to win championships. At this moment of his career he felt as though this wasn’t possible in Cleveland. The pieces that the Cavaliers had in place weren’t the right fit to win when it counted most. The Cavs had many winning seasons and were consistently at the top of the NBA, but when it came playoff time the weight was put on LeBron’s shoulders to win. At this point in his career he couldn’t handle the pressure so he decided to join Dwayne Wade along with Chris Bosh in Miami.
James was arguably the best player in the NBA before his departure from Cleveland, but in his four years in Miami we saw the birth of a champion. Miami struggled heavily the first season that the Big Three were together. However, they came together when it mattered and marched to the NBA Finals where they fell short against the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron shouldered a lot of the blame for the loss in the Finals, and many talked about how the lack of championships was affecting his legacy.
The following season James was not the same player. By this time the team knew their roles, and it became LeBron’s team. With an excellent supporting cast he was able to lead his team through the playoffs as well as the Finals and win his first championship against a young and talented Oklahoma City Thunder team. James was the MVP of both the regular season as well as the finals.
The very next season LeBron elevated his team to new heights. Having won a championship he put the Heat on a whole new level of play which included the second longest winning streak in NBA history with 27 straight victories. James went on to win his fourth MVP award and led the Heat to another NBA Finals defeating the San Antonio Spurs. In the meantime James was also awarded his second Finals MVP.
After falling short to the Spurs in his fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals, Cleveland’s prodigal son has returned. However, this is not the same player that left his city four years ago. Before he left James was a young player in desperate search for his first ring. As he returns, he is now a player that now knows what it takes to win a championship. The Cavs have went from a sub .500 team to being the many peoples favorites to win it all this season with the major addition of James and the looming Kevin Love trade.
What we can expect from James this season is the best player in basketball. LeBron has consistently improved his field goal percentage over the years. He has become smarter with his shot selection and has improved on making big shots with the game on the line. He will be the leader for this team, making young talent like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters better basketball players. James also gives the Cavs a strong defensive presence. Physically James has slimmed down which may affect his presence in the post, but he looks to be in the best shape of his life.
LeBron James left home a young superstar wanting to win championships for himself. He returns home a champion wanting to win for his city. The Cavalier fans who burned his jersey have welcomed their prodigal son back with open arms. The return of the King has brought back the hopes of the city. That hope is that this franchise will finally win its first NBA Finals, and that Cleveland will have its first title in 49 years.