I don't ever write about sports. I enjoy them and watch them, but tend not to write about them. However, the LeBron James free agency situation has certain sociological and cultural implications involved, so it's on my radar.
Honestly, I have nothing vested in LeBron’s decision to return to Cleveland, or stay in Miami. Or even go somewhere else. I discovered the NBA sometime during the 1987-88 season. More importantly, I discovered Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Since that time, I’ve gone from being a die hard NBA/Bulls/Jordan fan to a lukewarm NBA/Bulls fan. I check in the NBA, root for the Bulls from a distance, and Jordan is an owner now, so he’s not playing anymore. If I have to root for an NBA team, I’m still true to my Bulls. That being said, as a Bulls fan, and big-time Jordan fan, I have no love for the Cavs regardless of the fact that I’m Ohio-born and raised. Jordan had some epic battles with the Cavs, most notably the game in which he drilled “The Shot” to beat the Cavs in the first round of the 1989 Eastern Conference playoffs.
Oddly enough I never saw Jordan play live in a Bulls uniform, only a Wizards uniform, and against the Cavs.
I’ve actually seen James play in a Cavs uni twice. People offered, so I went. I like pro sports and will go to a game even if my favorite teams aren’t playing. I like cities and pro sports so it just works out; the atmosphere is always cool. But, I still have no love for the Cavs, really. It’s good for Ohio for them to be good, but beyond that I don’t necessarily care. I was hugely soured on LeBron, and ESPN, during the overly and much-hyped The Decision in 2010. That whole ordeal ultimately led to me no longer watching ESPN and, in my opinion, cemented their stature as the Soap Opera of sporting “news” too. Unless, of course, OSU football is on ESPN… then I watch. But not a minute more. It’s sort of sad, because I really like Scott Van Pelt. Who doesn’t, right? ESPN had a huge hand in hyping LeBron’s first dance with free agency and helped craft it into the circus it ultimately was, so when I heard that following the Heat's Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs that LeBron was opting out of his contract with the Heat and entering free agency, I said to myself, Oh geez, ESPN will be insufferable until he decides to resign with the Heat of decides where he’s going to land next. And, through the magic of Twitter, it’s actually been fun to see all the jokes thrown ESPN’s way as a result of how much of a circus they have made LeBron’s free agency out to be. Some users have been ruthless in mocking them.
Twitter has also made it possible to follow this off-season’s free agency without giving much, if any, attention to ESPN. And, admittedly, with a few big names exploring free agency this year, I’ve paid attention to the NBA to see where players land. I’m not much an NFL fan (I enjoy college football more) but I still keep an eye on the NFL’s free agency dealings each year. The wheeling and dealing is interesting to me. And, LeBron is without a doubt the biggest name in the NBA these days, and with being an Ohio resident the prospect of him returning to your state is hard to avoid. Might as well keep an eye on it, you know?
The Cavs have become a huge player in the LeBron sweepstakes within the last 48 hours, and so I have a couple thoughts to share on why going back to Cleveland is in his best interest.
1) The Decision in 2010 really left a bad impression of LeBron with a lot of people. It’s obvious from what he has said in the years past that he regrets taking part in it with ESPN. So, going back to Cleveland may buy him back some goodwill with sports fan on the whole.
2) Leaving Cleveland really hurt his relationship with what is essentially his hometown. True, LeBron is an Akron native, but Cleveland is right there. Akron doesn’t have a pro basketball team, so the Cavs are the hometown NBA team. Going back to the Cavs heals a lot of the open wounds LeBron created when he decided to take his talents to Miami.
3) Leaving Cleveland, a good team, to go south to Miami and join two other all-stars on one team did nothing to propel him into legendary status. Say what you want, but the argument will always be made, and rightfully so, that LeBron needed two all-stars in order to get a championship. Sure, Jordan had Pippen, but ultimately he had Pippen all those years the Bulls couldn’t win a championship. Going back to Cleveland does a little help his status in that he didn’t just abandon the Cavs, but that he went back to try and get it done while he was still in his prime. He doesn’t end up going back because he was at the end of his career.
4) Cleveland has a better team being set up for him than Miami. Miami secured Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger while drafting Shabazz Napier. McRoberts and Granger are good players, but they’re just good. Napier is just doing “okay” in the summer league. Cleveland has Kyrie Irving and drafted Andrew Wiggins, who apparently has more upside and talent than Napier. And the Cavs have stronger depth. It’s a young team with more potential than Miami’s current roster (or at least the roster than can round out). They are dealing right now and rumor is they could potentially be picking up Kevin Love. LeBron returning to an aging Heat squad with little depth would be sheer insanity if Love is in Cleveland. Now, the Cavs may have to trade Wiggins to make that happen, but Irving, Love, and James? Dang…
5) What if LeBron, who took Cleveland to the NBA Finals before, came back to this Cleveland team and took it all the way to a championship? What does that do to his legacy? I was discussing this with a good friend today and we both agreed that just one LeBron/Cavs championship is greater than 4 more with Miami (LeBron wants a max deal, so that would mean a minimum of a 4-year contract, hence the “four more” he could potentially get with Miami). He effectively kills off the weight of point #3, and accomplishes the one thing he failed to do in Cleveland the first time around: Win a championship. A championship in Cleveland renders his 2 championships in Miami simply as an asterisk on the hind parts of his legacy.
6) Lastly, the easiest point: Cleveland can offer him a max deal. And they can give him one, again, with a better team than Miami can. They already have a decent roster in place, Miami doesn’t. And, they can add pieces. That’s piggybacking off point #4, but still… they can more effectively give him a max deal without tapping out their potential to build around him. #maxdeal #easy
7) Going back to Cleveland means that all those fans who burned their LeBron jerseys will have to go back out and spend more money for a new LeBron jersey.
8) THE BIG ONE: Cedar Point has stated through their Twitter account that if LeBron comes back to Cleveland they’d rename a roller coaster after him. This pretty much gives him all the reason he needs and renders points 1-6 as moot as far as I’m concerned.
Again, I have nothing vested in LeBron’s decision either way. I don’t follow the NBA as I once did, and it doesn’t involve the Chicago Bulls. These are just reasons why I, as a casual observer, believe he should go back to Cleveland. With that being said, I think it makes good financial and career sense for all parties involved to hire me as a personal consultant to LeBron James. I probably won’t root for his team, but I’ll tell him which is the best option for him at any given point.
A special thanks to McKibban for helping me refine my points for why LeBron should go back to Cleveland.