Forgiven James returns Cleveland basketball to relevance once again

LeBron James, 2007 (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

LeBron James, 2007 (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

LeBron James is going home to Cleveland. He thoughtfully explained his decision to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. This is what makes him happy, he says, and who can begrudge a King that?

James made the emotional play. He swallowed hard to push past the Comic Sans bile of the jilted owner to seek redemption among his hometown fans who had embraced him since he was in middle school until they cursed him out of town four years ago.

The same fans he crushed that night on national television, with the passing of time, are eager to reunite with their Prodigal Son. All can be forgiven, and T-shirts printed earlier this week in anticipation of his return said so, stamped across the front with the very word — “FOR6IVEN” — James’ No. 6 he wore in Miami and potentially will in his Cleveland reboot, replacing the “g.”

It is indeed a homecoming, a ready-made script for the silver screen. The basketball fit, though, is less than Oscar-worthy.

The Heat, whose every flaw was exposed by the San Antonio Spurs in a blistering and abbreviated NBA Finals, are not necessarily the better fit at this stage, although a healthy Dwyane Wade considerably changes that equation. But James had other choices, more ready-made opportunities had he cared to explore them. He made it clear in his piece that he did not.

The 33-win Cavaliers offer an interesting package of two young players in Kyrie Irving and rookie Andrew Wiggins. New general manager David Griffin cleared out three players this week to squeeze James into a max deal, and now can infuse a roster that needs restocking with low-cost veteran talent and know-how. In an Eastern Conference that already lacks punch, Cleveland could realistically contend. Challenging any number of powers in the mightier West is a far greater undertaking.

James, who turns 30 in December, has committed to playing mentor. He is hitching his prime years to a score-first point guard in Irving – whose defensive work has holes, whose maturity has been questioned, whose injury history is concerning — and a 19-year-old potential phenom. These Cavs are not in the class of the James-Wade-Chris Bosh super team formed four years ago. James acknowledged as much in his piece: “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.”

James says he is eager to take on all the issues ahead of him, and feels more capable now that he’s a far more mature player and person then when he left Cleveland when he was just 25.

“I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go,” James said in his piece. “I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.”

Cleveland fans had worked themselves feverish in the last week as it became apparent James was seriously considering a return. But, given the last time James faced free agency, the wait was pure agony.

That agony has burst into elation. The King is coming home. Cleveland basketball matters again.

17 Comments

  1. jbl says:

    coming back to cavs will not give you another ring..you should stay to your DECISION made before ‘coz it only shows you don’t have the balls as other legendary players do, sticking to their decision made..poor Kyle Irving, another player to put on his shoulders…..WTF?!?!

    • Chris C says:

      What point are you making? He is a man for going back and doing the right thing. As much as I hate to say athletes “owe” fans, Lebron owes Cleveland and he can take his services wherever he wants to.

  2. Scott C says:

    what does a boy do when he is taken to the wood shed and beaten like an unwanted step child…. run home to momma!!!…. Cleveland owes the Spurs a big Thank You!!!!!!

  3. THA TRUEFF says:

    Poor Wigs

  4. Mike says:

    Cleveland feels like home again because Wade is fading and Irving is elevating. Heat beat the spurs last year lebron would be in mia going for 4 peat 5 straight finals. with that being said good for cleveland and lbj! hopefully they can nab some of these FA Oden, james jones, ray allen, Beasley, miller, ariza, deng, mo wiliams back!l or love join cleveland.

  5. For6iven says:

    I believe the Cavs will be a nice contender. They should start getting some deals done ASAP. If they can get a Mark Jackson to coach and some depth like Gasol, Love, Deng or Ariza they are serious contenders. I would put my money on the Cavs if they at least get Mark Jackson.

    • Ric says:

      Blatt is as much better coach than Mark Jackson. Jackson has a reputation, though it relates to wins, but it will just add drama to a roster that has full of it. Blatt will fare better. New coach, new players, start fresh.. every one deserves a chance. Not that i deny Jackson’s abilities. I loved what he did for the Warriors. But not with what he did with the management.

  6. kadozabenz says:

    If Lebron could bring a title to his home state, and a city that hasn’t seen a champion in ANY major sport since 1964, he could craft a narrative that would separate him from the Jordan conversation. A hometown kid, prodigious and personable, vilified for abandoning his home for the sake of titles, returns for the chance at the sweet form of redemption… completion. To deliver a title to the fanbase that loved and hated him the most would make Shakespeare jealous… although this story wouldn’t be tragic enough for ol Bill.

  7. kadozabenz says:

    If Lebron could bring a title to his home state, and a city that hasn’t seen a champion in ANY major sport since 1964, he could craft a narrative that would separate him from the Jordan conversation. A hometown kid, prodigious and personable, vilified for abandoning his home for the sake of titles, returns for the chance at the sweet form of redemption… completion. To deliver a title to the fanbase that loved and hated him the most would make Shakespeare jealous… although this story wouldn’t be tragic enough for ol Bill.

  8. Bob says:

    I think this is great news. Must have taken a lot of balls to do this. He is going to a younger team, with many players who have not proven themselves yet. Cleveland with LBJ has a lower chance of winning a championship immediately than a Miami team with LBJ.

    If Cleveland picks up another big player then Cleveland can contend. I think it is good that LBJ has decided not to focus on ringS as much and will just focus and hope of bringing a ring, or more, to Cleveland.

    Really respect this move. Heart first.

  9. ComebackKing says:

    I see what he’s doing here. He wants to do something Kobe, Jordan, and Duncan haven’t done- win championships with multiple teams (as the MVP, Big Shot Bob!) Seriously, though, was it all about Wade’s poor performance in the Finals and health issues? Is it really about coming home or was it that Cleveland was able to give a max contract? After 5 Finals and 2 rings, has he given up on the thought of winning more in the immediate future? Is there anything more Pat Riley could have done? At least he’s mature enough to have risen above team owner Dan Gilbert’s criticism. Is this all about rising to San Antonio’s level of dominance? Weren’t the Heat there the year before? At any rate, welcome back, James. Alhough I can’t blame the Cleveland fans who are still less than thrilled with you.

  10. MathSimon says:

    Although I am happy about Lebron coming back to Cleveland, I am still not wholly sold to the idea of him staying there forever. Only time will tell if what he says, this time, is true. Now that the cannon has been fired, it’s time for the free agency madness… to begin!

  11. alflex519 says:

    Did he just leave Wiggins out the convo?

  12. alflex519 says:

    Hey- did he leave Wiggins out of the convo?

  13. Hardhat Lunchpail says:

    He won two championships but this might be what really defines his legacy and finally gives him something else to aspire for other than chasing Jordan. This will give him a chance to define his own legacy as a great mentor, maybe he might even be a coach one day. It’s good to see that, while he still wants championships, he’s become more mature and wants to bring glory to his home town. Even if he wins only one or even none, he will be a legend.

  14. TheKush says:

    Hopefully Wade will get that money back! I think Wade could end up in Chicago if Miami doesn’t give him a max contract! I think what people are forgetting with this LeBron cleveland reunion is that Miami could become major players again if Riley plays this right! Deng’s out there Miami can beat the Houston offer, Melo is still out there Lance Stephenson and a bunch of others are still out although I can’t stand watching Miami games because of their half dead fan base it’s still a hot destination for young single men and women! I wouldn’t count Miami out yet. I’d like to see what Rileys plan B is… Congrats to james. James in Cleveland just feels right!