By Jim Hagerty
LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the 11-year veteran confirmed Friday, July 11.
“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” James wrote in a Sports Illustrated article. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
Four years ago, there was no love lost between the city who named him The King and the player who promised to win it a long-awaited championship. An NBA Finals crown was Cleveland’s only hope of a pro sports championship during James’ seven-year stint.
The closest James came to giving Cleveland its first sports title since 1964 came in 2007, when the Cavs were swept by San Antonio in the finals. The team seemed to be on its way back in 2008, after sweeping the Pistons and Hawks in the first two rounds.
The dream was dashed when the Cavs fell to the Orlando Magic.
The 2009-10 season also looked promising but ended with James being booed off the court as the Cavs were eliminated from the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. That would be his curtain call.
“When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission,” James continued in the SI piece. “I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question.
“But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio. …I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver.
“We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach.”
June 20, the Cavaliers announced David Blatt as the new head coach after dumping two-time coach Mike Brown and firing GM Chris Grant. The Cavs also nabbed Andrew Wiggins from Kansas as the No.1 pick of the 2014 NBA Draft.
James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all exercised options to become free agents this summer. Bosh is rumored to be heading to Houston while Wade hasn’t announced his intentions. It was originally reported that all three players would remain in Miami to make a fifth-straight trip the finals and a play for a third championship.
Rumors also swirled about moves being made to clear a spot for James in New York, where Phil Jackson is scrambling to build a team around Carmello Anthony before he packs his bags for greener pastures.
That was squashed Wednesday, July 9, when James’ agent, Rich Paul, announced LeBron wasn’t interested in playing for the Knicks.
Meanwhile, Cleveland fans welcomed their prodigal son back with the same amount of jeers that sent him south. Dozens gathered outside James’ Bath Township home Friday morning, awaiting word whether the four-time NBA MVP would return.
James wasn’t there, however. When the SI article was posted, LeBron, 29, was in Las Vegas running his youth camp. That didn’t stop the resounding cheers when the news broke.
Details of James’ deal with the Cavs were not known, as of this writing. Sources close to Rich Paul say the former St. Vincent–St. Mary High School (Akron, Ohio) All-American is set to sign a four-year contract.