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LeBron James: Will the King Return to Cleveland?

(January 19, 2009 - Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)
(January 19, 2009 – Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)

Four years ago, the King of the NBA courts left his home to pursue the wealth of other lands. He took his cleats, his headband, and his mighty ball and invaded South Beach where he conquered all of the lands of North Amercia except for the mighty state of Texas.

Four years later, we have seen the fight he has given, the franchises he’s slain, and the trophies, banners and rings he has plundered. Now…we wonder if the mighty warrior yearns for familiar soil again.

That’s the gist of it ladies and gentlemen. LeBron James is back in the free agent market and he has a choice yet again. He can go virtually anywhere now. Every team will want him, but he won’t want the majority of them. He may only want to go home.

Let’s not presume to know what James thinks, but he’s human though. At least we’re all pretty sure he is human and not from Krypton. The most basic human emotional need is happiness. Too often, the public forgets that players will let comfort and happiness dictate their free agency destinations over talent and dollar figures.

That’s why the recently late Tony Gwynn stayed in San Diego forever or a guy like Tim Duncan and San Antonio. They just love it there.

And James obviously loves it in Ohio since he, his wife Savannah, and family still personally have a summer house in Akron, his hometown. James spent the first quarter century of his life in the bosom of Ohio. From pre-school to grade school to high school to the first seven years of his professional career he collected memories where the primary setting had to do with Ohio.

We all know the story. We all heard the arguments.

“LeBron never should’ve left!”

“Oh, was he supposed to waste away with that franchise?!”

“You don’t abandon family and friends!”

“This is a business! He made a smart business decision!”

“They were more than just a business! They practically raised him!”

“And they didn’t do anything to help the guy win and he’s going to be judged in history by titles! They gave him nothing for a supporting cast!”

The backlash of James leaving is now the textbook, picture in the dictionary/encyclopedia definition of what star athletes face when leaving in free agency. Better waters vs. hometown loyalty. He chose better waters and he paid the price.

James was the universal No. 1 Bad Guy in Ohio. Right before Osama Bin Laden and tax collectors. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert became a more recognized name because of his own personal letter he pinned that painted James as a villain. Betty White’s show “Hot In Cleveland” had a line for her saying his name, “In this house, It’s traitor!”

Yet, four years ago, there was always still a thought, at least amongst the sportswriters that he may come back. Isn’t anything possible these days? It didn’t seem like it four years ago with all the negativity going about, but the question was there.

Well, time heals all wounds and good memories don’t fade fast. Despite all the things that Clevelanders may have said on Twitter, on news broadcasts or other media formats, James still has connections to Ohio.

It’s where he was drafted. Where he met his high school sweetheart/now wife. Where his two boys were born. Friends and other relatives live there too. Anyone can imagine why he’d want to go home.

His wife, family, friends, and agent want him to. But they have more personal stakes involved in this that make them biased. Where the King plays has to be a business decision at least in some part. Let’s examine that shall we?

The Cavs are a bad team. The numbers and records support it. They even managed to finagle another top overall pick, their third in the four years since the King has left. For a team to go from playoff contender to bottom of the barrel because one man left says that the team is weak.

Obviously, James would not want to go back to the same situation of the team can make the playoffs because of his Herculean efforts, but then they fail because he can’t do it alone. The Cavs would have to be a better team than they were when he left.

They are. In the first year post-LeBron, the Cavs won only 19 games. This year, even with all their struggles, they improved to winning 33 games. It isn’t a ringing endorsement like having Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade on the same team, but it’s an improvement.

For the last four years, the Cavs have rebuilt itself with young and somewhat promising first-round talent.

2011: 1st pick, Kyrie Irving. 4th pick, Tristan Thompson

2012: 4th pick, Dion Waiters.

2013: 1st pick, Anthony Bennett.

2014: 1st pick, Andrew Wiggins.

The best of the bunch has been Irving, who has struggled himself at times. Wiggins is unproven, but with a high ceiling. Bennett was a top pick in a bad draft, but there is hope that he can provide a pinch or more of help. Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson have shown talent as well. Plus, Anderson Varejao is still with the team and is a friend of James.

The young players have great potential, but are hardly finished products. James would have to become their leader and make them better the way Michael Jordan would rally the Chicago Bulls.

Then James would have to take a giant leap of faith in the Cavs and their front office. That will be difficult since he has seen them blow chance after chance to get him help. Granted, the new GM David Griffin isn’t responsible for the majority of the peculiar decisions, but he still hasn’t proven anything yet.

What the Cavs have is better than before, but does it match up to the Heat and Pat Riley’s reputation? Does it match up to the Bulls, their strong defense, and Derrick Rose?

Does it match up to the Rockets who have two other superstars in Dwight Howard and James Harden? Does it even match up to the Celtics that may be rebuilding, but have a proven GM in Danny Ainge or the Brooklyn Nets who have veteran experience in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Deron Williams?

No. It doesn’t. Logically, James shouldn’t go back to Cleveland. It makes more logical sense to go elsewhere. But once again, those places aren’t home. Ohio is. Always has been and always will be.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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