The biggest domino of the always entertaining NBA free agency period has finally fallen, and LeBron James has announced that he is going to return to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.
Four years ago LeBron made his announcement on ESPN in the highly criticized The Decision that he would join the Miami Heat, starting a wave of criticism that he still hasn't been able to entirely shed despite two NBA Championships, four Finals appearances, and two MVP awards since. In an essay told to Sports Illustrated, LeBron said that while winning championship rings is nice, there really is no place like home.
"I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy."
Growing up in Akron, Ohio and being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers out of high school, LeBron always had strong ties to Northeast Ohio and never really left the area despite his sojourn to Miami, keeping a residence and charity in the area. Always the best player on an otherwise mediocre Cavs roster, he was beloved as a hometown hero. His move to Miami was seen as a betrayal by eternally tortured Cleveland sports fans, who haven't experienced the taste of a championship by any of their professional teams since the Browns won an NFL Championship in 1964—it's been such a long drought that the Browns last won a title before the Super Bowl era!
After a disappointing NBA Finals this past June, when the Miami Heat lost 3 games to 1 in a rematch with the San Antonio Spurs, the 'Big Three' (LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh) foundation of the most recent Heat dynasty seemed to be crumbling. Everyone tried their hand at reading the tea leaves, tracking Cavs owner Dan Gilbert's private jet, following red herrings, and trying their hand at working out the overly-complicated NBA salary cap restrictions to see where LeBron and the other marquee free agents would land. With LeBron making his decision, every other piece can fall in place now, with Bosh probably heading to the Houston Rockets, and Carmelo Anthony likely returning to the New York Knicks. Going back to Cleveland, he might have an even better supporting cast before with former #1 draft pick Kyrie Irving, recent #1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waters.
Love him or hate him, LeBron will always be an essential part of the NBA providing fans with his dazzling play and sportswriters with a daily headline. By going home to Cleveland and possibly delivering the title fans have been dreaming of for decades, it seems as if the best is yet to come.