July 11, 2014
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- LeBron James did the right thing.
Not just because he decided to come back to the Cavaliers.
Rather, he didn't allow any final doubts keep him away from a decision that he must have made several days ago -- that he was coming home.
To leave Northeast Ohio waiting this long -- and then return to Miami -- would have indeed been cruel and unusual punishment.
Now, he's one of the greatest sports stories in Cleveland history. It's one of the best stories of the last several years.
The best basketball player in the world went to four consecutive NBA Finals in Miami. He won two titles.
Yet, he picked Cleveland.
He picked to come home to the Akron area, because that's where he wants to raise his children.
As he wrote in Sports Illustrated making his announcement: "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."
That's really why he came back to the Cavaliers.
He just picked a rookie general manager (David Griffin) over the Heat's Pat Riley and all his championship rings.
He picked a rookie head coach (David Blatt) over the Heat's Erik Spoelstra, an established NBA winner.
He picked an owner (Dan Gilbert) who ripped him in a letter after leaving the Cavs in 2010 -- and delivered a lesson in forgiveness.
He picked Northeast Ohio over Miami.
As he wrote, "I sometimes feel like I'm their son."
And like most of us with children, we know they don't always make the best decisions. But we are thrilled when they come home and want to make things right.
Most Northeast Ohio basketball fans remember when they first saw James play.
For me, it was in the summer in a pickup game at St. Vincent-St. Mary. He talked to me afterwards. He was 15. He was giggling and eating Skittles. He was just a kid.
Now, he is a husband, soon to be a father of three. He already has two sons, a girl is on the way.
He made a family-based decision. His family loves it here. Like many from Northeast Ohio, they miss the area even more than they feared after moving away.
But you know what else just happened?
James has made the Cleveland Cavaliers the center of the basketball universe. It's shocking, especially to those who aren't from this area.
In his Sports Illustrated essay, James struck a humble tone. He didn't promise championships. He did not talk about taking "my talents" anywhere.
"I'm going into a new situation with a young team and a new coach," he wrote. "I will be the old head."
For some of us who remember James playing for Keith Dambrot as a 15-year-old in the old St. Vincent-St. Mary gym, that's hard to imagine. But his hair is thinning. He has been in the NBA for 11 seasons. His pro career is more than half over.
And he's coming home at just the right time, doing the right thing -- and doing it when it's not easy.
This isn't combining with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to form an instant All-Star team. It's wanting to lead Dion Waiters, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and so many other young Cavs players who have no clue about winning.
And for that, Cavs fans should be very thankful.