FanDuel - WFBC

July 11, 2014

LeBron James Returning to Cleveland: LeBron James stunned the NBA on Friday when he announced he's returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers and leaving the Miami Heat. James made the announcement on Sports Illustrated's website in a letter. He wrote: "Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. ... In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I'm ready to accept the challenge. I'm coming home. ... My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now."

posted by rcade to basketball at 12:32 PM - 51 comments

Well said!

posted by BornIcon at 12:35 PM on July 11

That's quite a love letter to Cleveland. I really like that aspect of it.

I wasn't expecting such a spectacular PR gesture along with this little-d decision.

posted by rcade at 12:44 PM on July 11

The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned -- seeing all that was hard for them.

Does any city deserve this less than Cleveland? Everybody makes mistakes, sure, but usually you have to pay for them.

posted by tron7 at 12:59 PM on July 11

From the Sklar Brothers: Johnny football should send him a fruit basket for taking the pressure off.

posted by Etrigan at 01:04 PM on July 11

Does any city deserve this less than Cleveland?

When has Cleveland ever gotten more than it deserved, in anything?

posted by rcade at 01:15 PM on July 11

Does any city deserve this less than Cleveland? Everybody makes mistakes, sure, but usually you have to pay for them.

If you google "cleveland sports championships," this is the first result.

posted by Etrigan at 01:43 PM on July 11

Ahh, I think you're onto something here, it was retroactive karma.

I would be happy for them if the fanbase and Gilbert hadn't reacted so childishly to LeBron leaving in 2010. I can't think of anything a NBA fanbase has done that is more distasteful to me. To see them get LeBron back, on top of the first overall picks the lottery has been cramming down their throat, rubs my sense of justice the wrong way.

posted by tron7 at 01:56 PM on July 11

Maybe that was Cleveland's 4 years in the wilderness before they were taken to the promised land?

posted by tron7 at 02:05 PM on July 11

According to Steven A. Smith this move makes LeBron the "most beloved sportsman in the world."

So it's nice to see we're maintaining perspective.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 02:16 PM on July 11

I can't think of anything a NBA fanbase has done that is more distasteful to me.

Leaving aside Gilbert, what did the fanbase do other than express anger and disappointment? Any city that lost a hometown hero who was the best player in the league in his prime would likely act the way Cleveland did. Especially if they had a hard-luck history in sports and life comparable to the city once called the Mistake by the Lake.

posted by rcade at 02:39 PM on July 11

Has this ever happened in a major American sport? I just don't understand why this resonates with so many people. I still think LeBron is a bitch. And Cleveland still sucks, and Gilbert is still there.

I'm absolutely certain there is a behind the scenes play that will lead to conflict or disappointment down the road. This seems to be LeBron's legacy. Surprising people. Having enough individual leverage to leave a trail of destroyed teams in his wake. He just quit a team that went to the NBA Finals to "go home," whatever the fuck that populist drivel means. Oh my, I am so touched that the LeBron product has changed jerseys. The LeBron product is maturing. I am touched by the meaning it infuses in my otherwise meaningless life.

I really don't enjoy watching players orchestrate championships with off-the-court schemes. You just got owned by the Spurs, on the court. You're a loser. Go back home and cramp up there, you bitch. The Cleveland Cramp. Running around in circles. I assume at the very least he'll make a killing in endorsements. Good for him.

posted by phaedon at 02:55 PM on July 11

Leaving aside Gilbert, what did the fanbase do other than express anger and disappointment?

Other than the jersey burning, I saw the same sentiments that Gilbert outlined in his letter coming out of the mouths and keyboards of every Cavs fan I interacted with. The circumstances explain why the city reacted as it did but I don't think it excuses them.

posted by tron7 at 03:08 PM on July 11

I'm not real thrilled with the "bitch" insult. Lift the level of the conversation, please.

I just don't understand why this resonates with so many people.

He's the best player in the league, arguably the best ever, and he's championing a far-from-the-spotlight Rust Belt city that has suffered under the long-term decline of American manufacturing matched by its fading success in sport.

The narrative connects with people for the same reason that any tale of rebirth and redemption in that part of America strikes a chord. Remember Clint Eastwood's "Halftime in America" commercial? Same thing.

posted by rcade at 03:42 PM on July 11

posted by phaedon at 03:45 PM on July 11

Nothing in the NBA really gets me excited, but this comes close. I'm happy for Cleveland, and I'm happy LeBron made this decision. The only thing that ever really turned me against LeBron in the past is the ridiculous way he announced his "decision" when he left for Miami. That was enough to make many NBA fans, as well as the entire city of Cleveland, very pissed. And as has been mentioned, Cleveland's championship history in all sports makes the city's anger understandable.

LeBron left because he wanted to win championships. He won a couple. I will never fault him for that. He seems to understand a bit better, with perspective, what his hometown means. There will always be a large number of LeBron haters, but Cleveland should be happy. They now have some of the pieces in place to make a strong move towards a championship of their own.

There's a lot of excitement in Cleveland right now, but I hope people don't equate LeBron (the best player in the world) with Manziel (who I truly feel will be a HUGE bust). The Manziel thing may crash and burn sometime towards the end of September. LeBron, hopefully, will finish his career in Cleveland and give the city an NBA crown.

posted by dyams at 04:12 PM on July 11

Snippets from the Vault of the Vilified:

In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.
- LeBron

I don't like it when people promise me things, I like to earn it - this is what I value.
- Diego Costa

posted by beaverboard at 04:17 PM on July 11

tale of rebirth and redemption

LeBron is and always has been bigger than the Cavs organization, so let's just be clear, LeBron is not really even the prodigal son, this is more like the redemption of a deadbeat father coming back home to the ugly wife and kids, right? After spending a not even remotely regrettable couple of years snorting coke and banging strippers down in the Magic City? As in, maybe not all of us are so comfortable that daddy's back in the picture? I mean, that's the "narrative" I see.

I'm not trying to paint anyone in a corner, I'm just a little surprised all these sports analysts so eager to do right by him. I don't remember this story really developing during the season. Didn't the Cavs take LeBron to the Finals? Didn't he then leave for Miami to win two titles only to flatline a year later? The missing piece for "the greatest player of all time" is to "play for the right team?" And he figured this out when and how? Did the two titles in Miami make this really clear to him? At the very least, there should be a lot of trepidation about him coming back. There's going to be a ton of coverage and scrutiny. Such a strange decision. I'm actually talking myself into feeling bad for him for the ass-handing he'll get should things go sideways.

posted by phaedon at 04:19 PM on July 11

I never was a fan of LeBron the man, but could not help but admire his skill as LeBron the basketball player. My son and I talked about this at lunch over a couple of good microbrews and burgers at The Flying Goose in Newport, NH. Our consensus was that Cleveland would accept him back, but only if he were to make some sort of statement acknowledging that he left for his own personal gain, but that he now realized his error. His statement was exactly what he needed to say. I take it as a sign of increasing maturity that might be a bit late in coming but is nonetheless genuine. He still has my admiration as a player, but he is gaining some of my respect as a person.

posted by Howard_T at 04:32 PM on July 11

Didn't the Cavs take LeBron to the Finals?

I think a couple of your nouns are reversed there.

posted by Etrigan at 04:47 PM on July 11

LeBron is and always has been bigger than the Cavs organization, so let's just be clear, LeBron is not really even the prodigal son, this is more like the redemption of a deadbeat father coming back home to the ugly wife and kids, right?

I think that takes the metaphor a bit too far. LeBron was the good father who left for a hotter, younger woman, then he learned that for every hot woman there's some guy out there sick of her shit, so he came back to his wife and kids.

LeBron is bulletproof while he stays in Cleveland trying to bring a ring to the ringless. People liked him (mostly) before the Miami move. He has a lot of goodwill until/unless things go wonky and he wants out.

posted by rcade at 05:13 PM on July 11

This doesn't seem to get mentioned much, but when the Cavs retired Ilgauskas' number earlier this year, that might have made an impression on LeBron. See the family, feel the love. Everyone in Cleve digs the Translucent One.

Dammit, I wish people would quit calling him LBJ. There isn't but one of those, for better and for worse. Anyone who follows along after needs to come up with a moniker of their own. Cain't Lynda Bird and Luci Baines trademark the daggone initials?

posted by beaverboard at 05:38 PM on July 11

I just remembered I own cavaliersblog.com.

posted by rcade at 05:48 PM on July 11

LeBron is bulletproof while he stays in Cleveland trying to bring a ring to the ringless.

Cleveland's going to destroy LeBron.

I don't understand why it's always been beyond him to sit down in front of a camera, surrounded by friends, teammates and/or family, with a team logo behind him, and announce his intentions. And to inform these people ahead of time.

Instead you have "internet silence" in the playoffs followed by a "penned letter" in Sports Illustrated. The guy's never been able to handle his own greatness. Sad. Honestly, maybe the game's changed and it's just not going to be as pretty as it used to be (CBA). You look at a well-informed individual like Phil Jackson talking about Melo, and you're like, are you serious? Do you even have a clue what's going on?

posted by phaedon at 06:03 PM on July 11

I think he did tell people ahead of time.

Why is a camera interview with friends around him validating but an essay in SI is not? George Plimpton must be rolling over in his grave. Show some respect for the written word!

posted by rcade at 06:07 PM on July 11

Dammit, I wish people would quit calling him LBJ. There isn't but one of those, for better and for worse.

There was another LBJ, actually in Viet Nam for a while -- the Long Binh Jail.

posted by Howard_T at 07:16 PM on July 11

Chris Bosh just dumped the Rockets and resigned with the Heat.

posted by rcade at 08:03 PM on July 11

For Miami fans: you don't get to complain about this. As a analogy:

When you date a girl/guy and cause her/him to break-up a relationship to start dating you, you forfeit the right to be angry when she/he cheats on you, because you knew she/he was a cheater from the start. If they'll do it for you, they'll do it to you.

posted by Bonkers at 09:49 AM on July 12

But LeBron and Cleveland were on a break when he started seeing Miami ...

posted by rcade at 09:58 AM on July 12

I can't even imagine all the LeBron Cavaliers jerseys (the ones that didn't get burned) being dug out of drawers, boxes, etc. all over Ohio. Goes to show you, never throw anything away.

posted by dyams at 10:47 AM on July 12

If Lebron knew he had to "return home" why did he meet with seven other teams? Although not quite to the same extreme I'm with @phaedon on this one.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:19 PM on July 12

Can't blame the Cleveland fans for taking off on James when he left four years ago. They saw the city's championship drought continuing.

But winning cures everything in sports. James certainly has not yet brought Cleveland a championship. But now the fans welcome James back because he gives them the closest thing yet in terms of hope for a championship.

posted by roberts at 12:35 PM on July 12

If Lebron knew he had to "return home" why did he meet with seven other teams?

I don't think he was saying it was the only thing he had ever been thinking about since losing the Finals this year, but it ended up being bigger than money or a situation where he's best poised to grab another ring.

posted by Etrigan at 01:36 PM on July 12

Let's see if Northeast Ohio truly is bigger than basketball a couple of years down the road if the nucleus around him doesn't result in a championship. LeBron left to play for a dream team, and now plays on a team who've drafted first overall three years in a row.

LeBron isn't a romantic, he's a pragmatist - he sees star level talent in Irving and Wiggins (or Love) and a shot to repair his tarnished legacy. And I've no problem with him being pragmatic, but the Stephen A. Smith's of the world who make this seem like a benevolent act make me ill.

posted by dfleming at 04:36 PM on July 12

If Lebron knew he had to "return home" why did he meet with seven other teams?

He addresses that: "I always believed that I'd return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn't know when. ... 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."

posted by rcade at 06:01 PM on July 12

Not only did LeBron talk to seven other teams, he also only signed a two-year deal with Cleveland... one of which is a player option.

What a guy.

posted by Goyoucolts at 07:21 PM on July 12

Why do you fault him for trying to maximize his salary when the new TV deal arrives in two years?

posted by rcade at 09:44 PM on July 12

Here's more on LeBron's salary strategy.

posted by rcade at 10:07 PM on July 12

Why do you fault him for trying to maximize his salary when the new TV deal arrives in two years?

posted by rcade at 09:44 PM on July 12

Here's more on LeBron's salary strategy.

It's not faulting him about his strategy, it's that he's got this strategy while simultaneously writing letters about how he is going to finish his career somewhere and how much he loves Cleveland and blah blah. He's making this out to be about Cleveland above anything else, which it isn't.

posted by dfleming at 01:29 AM on July 13

It could be about being in Cleveland while additionally optimizing his salary strategy as a secondary characteristic.

Few people could have paralleled my Lebron disdain up to this week (as a person, not as a player). But it seems to me that one has to make an unsupportable reach to make his return anything but what he says it is -- a move fueled far more by emotion than finance or glory. He fucked up four years ago, and the Decision will always be part of his legacy. But this move was a good one, for good reasons, by a more mature human being.

posted by Etrigan at 08:33 AM on July 13

It's not faulting him about his strategy, it's that he's got this strategy while simultaneously writing letters about how he is going to finish his career somewhere and how much he loves Cleveland and blah blah.

He can do both, though -- he can maximize his salary while in Cleveland and stay in Cleveland. I fail to see why he needs to take a financial hit and give Dan Gilbert the extra contract leverage of a four-year deal just to prove he meant what he said in the letter.

Signing shorter deals also gives LeBron more say over the team.

Some people don't want to take LeBron at his word, but why would he go to Cleveland if it wasn't primarily about loyalty to the area? The Cavaliers were hardly the young team best set up for future success before he signed. Gilbert wasn't an owner he had any reason to like. David Blatt, though a great story, has never coached in the U.S. at high school, college or the pros. The Cavs had two straight top overall picks, but Anthony Bennett is being called a bust.

I didn't like LeBron prior to this move either. But I think a hometown hero doing this is a pretty special moment in sport. I hope he's able to pull it off.

posted by rcade at 08:42 AM on July 13

I didn't like LeBron prior to this move either. But I think a hometown hero doing this is a pretty special moment in sport. I hope he's able to pull it off.

I agree completely. As the best basketball player in the world, James should be able to do what he wants with regards to where he plays, how long he plays for, and pretty much name his terms. Regardless of what actually happens down the road, it can't be denied he loves his home, as does his wife. In this day and age, an athlete choosing Cleveland over the warm, glitzy places like Miami is pretty rare. We just recently had other young players say they wanted nothing to do with Cleveland. A player of this stature choosing to.go back there is a nice story.

posted by dyams at 09:10 AM on July 13

Some people don't want to take LeBron at his word, but why would he go to Cleveland if it wasn't primarily about loyalty to the area?

It's about his tarnished image. LeBron is tired of being the villain and wants to be the hero again. He got his championships, so now people can't criticize him for not being a winner, which weighed on him before he left.

He certainly has the right to use the leverage of being Cleveland's only shot at a championship to get more say over the team and to maximize his capacity to earn revenue over the next five years, but I retain the right to think the same guy who orchestrated "The Decision" four years ago is still out for his ego first, finance second, and Cleveland a distant third.

posted by dfleming at 09:40 AM on July 13

I hope that this story inspires pro athletes everywhere to return to their roots.

Actually, not really. I just hope it inspires Pierzynski to sign with the Yankees.

posted by beaverboard at 09:45 AM on July 13

It's about his tarnished image. LeBron is tired of being the villain and wants to be the hero again.

You've got him in a can't-win box: If he does good, it's only because he wants people to think he's good.

LeBron was well liked until the Decision. His letter admits his mistakes in how that was handled and in his boastful predictions of championships, but it's not like he was breaking a promise by leaving. He didn't owe Cleveland his entire career.

posted by rcade at 10:02 AM on July 13

You've got him in a can't-win box: If he does good, it's only because he wants people to think he's good.

QFT. "There's no such thing as true altruism, man" belongs in freshman dorms.

posted by Etrigan at 10:30 AM on July 13

You've got him in a can't-win box

I think most of sports fandom insists on a binary viewpoint for LeBron. I get the dislike stemming from The Decision, but I can't understand the hate, the blinding hate. If you truly like the sport, how can you not love watching him play? Even if you're a fan of a rival team, how can you not love him as a wrestling heel then? He seems to be maturing, he's done and said a lot of good things, he's the best player in the league and the best player I've ever seen. It may be that Jordan or Magic was better in their era, but from an evolution of the sport perspective, he's the most awesome (in the original sense) player I've seen.

Some guy pulled up next to us yesterday at a light with sports radio blaring through closed windows (why do sports talk radio listeners insist on turning the volume up? is it because they're always yelling?) and I had to roll up my windows because I could hear some jackass caller declaring Kobe was still a better player. He was holding onto the idea for dear life and I can't understand why.

I do think a fair amount of the dislike stems from the idea players in the NBA are beginning to control where they go and that seems (for lack of trying to find a less loaded word) uppity. Fans are more comfortable with the idea their team's fortunes are tied to an anonymous set of guys in suits who may or may not know what they're doing.

posted by yerfatma at 11:20 AM on July 13

LeBron was well liked until the Decision. His letter admits his mistakes in how that was handled and in his boastful predictions of championships, but it's not like he was breaking a promise by leaving. He didn't owe Cleveland his entire career.

Well, the the thing about words like you are using - loyalty - is that it's about sticking it out through the tough times. It's about promises. Nobody owes anybody anything in the sports business, but if you're going to use hero and loyalty and all these big words - they mean transcending the ego and the business of sport. Otherwise they're meaningless fluff words.

I liked LeBron before the decision, and I think I can go back to liking him, but I and am further away than a one-year with a player option from talking about loyalty and forgetting the last four years. A week ago he was in Vegas with Pat Riley and talking to other teams. If it was such a no-brainer, loyalty-based decision, those meetings were completely pointless and wouldn't have happened.

He's owned up to his mistakes, and I'll give him credit for that, but let's see what happens if Cleveland goes 41-41 this year.

posted by dfleming at 11:27 AM on July 13

It's about his tarnished image. LeBron is tired of being the villain and wants to be the hero again. He got his championships, so now people can't criticize him for not being a winner, which weighed on him before he left.

Exactly. This is a legacy PR move if I ever saw one. Stephen A. Smith getting on the air and claiming Bron as the most beloved athlete in the world after he returned and that audio clip of the Cleveland talkshow hosts pretty much sums up the situation.

But beyond that, I disagree that there were other, better young teams out there, rcade. I'm higher on Waiters and Irving than some, I suppose, but I feel Cleveland is pretty stacked talent-wise for an East team. Thompson and Wiggins are nothing to sneeze at either. Provided Blatt can coach the Cavs are going to be good for a long time, even if a couple other viable options were out there. Better destinations for LeBron would have been Chicago (which could only scrape together $73 million for Melo's offer) or Dallas (not exactly a young team built for long-term winning).

As for maximizing his money, why is LeBron the only guy who signed this sort of deal? Why isn't every agent recommending their clients take short-term deals? I'd be more inclined to look at how much cap space the Knicks are clearing next year when Stoudemire and Bargnani come off the books. LeBron DID want to play with Melo...

Anyone can write a nice letter, especially if they have a professional journalist help them tweak it. But all the other factors (leaving Wade out of his guaranteed money, picking the best young team to return to, the calculated deal that allows him to duck out after a season if he doesn't start winning, meeting with seven other teams beforehand) makes this look like a business and PR decision, not some reconciliation.

posted by Goyoucolts at 12:40 PM on July 13

As for maximizing his money, why is LeBron the only guy who signed this sort of deal?

Because it's riskier. There's no one else who has signed recently that would be a sure fire max guy in two years. If Bosh and Melo can get 100 million it's safer to just do it now because they are less likely than LeBron to be worth substantially more in two years.

posted by tron7 at 12:49 PM on July 13

LeBron is tired of being the villain and wants to be the hero again

Not possible.

Maybe he can be a hero in Cleveland if he doesn't repeat his previous antics there of consistently blaming his teammates, coaches, and management for failure.

Hopefully any future articles about LeBron are about his excellence on the court. He needs to get over himself and focus on the game. He has proven that he is probably the most talented player the NBA has ever seen. But he does get beat in big moments by players with less talent and a better mindset. That never happened to Jordan. Never happened to Bird or Magic or a long list of others.

posted by cixelsyd at 07:19 PM on July 13

But he does get beat in big moments by players with less talent and a better mindset. That never happened to Jordan.

That's interesting, because Jordan won titles in less than half the playoffs he participated in when in Chicago. Unless you think Isaiah Thomas or Shaquille O'Neal are players with "more talent", I'm going to say that the same thing happened to Jordan.

posted by grum@work at 08:37 PM on July 13

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