A Homecoming Fit for a King

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July 11, 2014 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Even though it was totally foreseeable and not all that shocking an outcome, Lebron James has returned home to Cleveland, and will be suiting up for the Cavaliers once more, come this fall. We all knew he would one day return to the city that he had once spurned (and on live television at that), but it never seemed like a sure thing, until it seemed like a sure thing. Why would Lebron leave a team, he left his old team to play for? It wouldn’t make sense especially after making four consecutive trips to the Finals. Lebron has always, and will always have Ohio in his heart; he’s a homegrown kid who genuinely wants to have a positive effect on his community. As he said it himself, his decision to come home “is bigger than basketball”.

When you look at the bigger picture, pieces for in place for the King’s return during last offseason in which the Cavaliers not only had the 1st pick in the draft, but also signed Andrew Bynum, to a two year deal. If the Bynum experiment worked out, Lebron would not only have all-star point guard Kyrie Irving to welcome him home, but also all-star and NBA champion center Andrew Bynum. In his entire career Lebron has never played with a stud point guard or a stud center, obviously Dan Gilbert knew this as he was the one who surrounded Lebron with shit talent in the first place. For the Cleveland Cavaliers, the 2013-14 NBA season was all about impressing Lebron James, to show him that they were fully capable and equipped to build a championship contender around him. That’s why they were buyers at the trade deadline last year, when they just as easily could have been sellers. They wanted to show him that they could surround him with quality players like Irving, Dion Waiters, Jarret Jack, and Andrew Bynum. They even went so far as to rehire Mike Brown, Lebron’s old coach in Cleveland. It was all about sending a message to Lebron, a message that unlike the last time it’d wouldn’t all be on his shoulders; that he wouldn’t have to wait for the team to get better, but that he was the missing piece in a championship caliber roster.

The reason why James left Miami, is the exact opposite reason why he went down there in the first place. He left Miami because he knew that their window had closed, that his time there had already peaked and that it would be all downhill from there. Dwyane Wade has the knees of an arthritic 78 year old, bench production is almost nonexistent, and the Heat have no functional point guard or center. The Heat’s tactics of aggressive defense and expert marksmanship could only sustain itself for so long.  Now, it’s at an apparent end.  Yes they might own the east, but could they really beat the best that the west has to offer a year from now, or in two years?  In reality, the Big 3 era of the Heat was a stagnant experiment that couldn’t grow in league with the rest of the NBA. Once the rest of the league caught up to them, they’d be done. Players get old, and the new CBA makes it harder to sign marquis free agents; the Big 3 were only going to be as good as they were, within a limited window of opportunity. It’d be impossible for them to get significantly better over a long period of time. They aren’t the Spurs, who own the best example of a sustainable philosophy to team building. One of the reasons why Lebron left Miami is because he read the writings on the wall and didn’t want to go down with a sinking ship, as he should not have.

He went back to Cleveland because they represent a rising current, especially within the anemic Eastern Conference. After drafting wunderkid Andrew Wiggins, that might have been what convinced James that the Cavs were a legitimate up-and-coming team. Lebron bought what Dan Gilbert was selling in the form of Irving, Waiters, Wiggins, and now with the speculative promise to land Kevin Love. Lebron left Cleveland because, all appearances to the contrary, they were never real contenders. Look back at that 2006-07 team and tell me in all seriousness that they actually could have beaten the Spurs. Who the fuck are Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden? And their second best player was a decaying Zydrunas Ilgauskas. If the Heat were a sinking ship, the Cavaliers were a ship that were still docked. In all fairness to Lebron, he gave them seven years to build a true championship caliber team, and they failed to do so. They didn’t so he went somewhere where he’d be able to win and to do so repeatedly, as Miami had offered. And that’s what he should have done. If he wanted to win, then he should’ve left Cleveland in 2010.  Now though, the Cavaliers have a future, and with Lebron coming back, it’s so bright you gotta wear shades.

If Cleveland (and the NBA) wanted him back they had to work for it and prove that they could create a consistently competitive team, unlike in Lebron’s original tenure with the team. They hunted for the perfect coach for him, brought in a stud point guard, tried out a stud (emotionally stunted) center, fired the GM, and traded a third of their team to make way for even the chance of signing Lebron James. It’s often been said that the NBA draft is fixed, with the outcome being one desired by the Commissioner’s office. I believe this is true, especially in luring James back to Cleveland. In the four years Lebron was away, Cleveland was awarded the first overall pick three times, including the same season Lebron was eligible to become a free agent. Lebron, his mom, Dan Gilbert, Delonte West, and the rest of the NBA community (except Pat Riley) wanted Lebron to come home, because the only story better than that of the fall from grace is the story of redemption.

We all like Lebron, and want him to do the right thing because he seems like a genuinely nice guy, especially for an NBA player. He’s never been abrasive, arrogant, or violent (like Oakley, Sprewell, Iverson, or Artest), and it seems like all he wants to do is make people happy (like Magic Johnson wanted to). When he took his talents to Miami, which had been “almost like college”, it was because he had no choice; if he wanted to win and win now, he had to leave Cleveland. Now that he’s back in Cleveland, it’s because he wants to be there, as he said in his letter, he wants to win there and be a part of the community and give them a trophy that they deserve. In all honesty, Lebron’s return is bigger than his first game with them back in 2003; this is the most exciting thing to happen to Cleveland since the beginning of the bottom of the 9th inning of game seven of the 1997 World Series.

I was never a Lebron-hater, I know why he left and I think it was the right course of action. With the publishing of his letter of intent to return to the Cavs, my respect and admiration for him has grown. In the letter he talks about how he has grown as a player and as a man, and this well-articulated and emotional letter shows just that. It also creates a nice juxtaposition against Dan Gilbert’s asinine letter berating and verbally assassinating Lebron’s character. Lebron has shown to be the bigger man, while also staying true to his home grown roots, as well as his prophetic promise to return one day as a Cavalier. His exodus out of Cleveland began with a letter of scathing degradation, and his second coming began with a letter of maturity and a promise of not one, or two, or three championships, but a promise to work hard and give his all into crafting a team that the community can look up to and call their own.

Currently, the Cavaliers are one Moses Malone away from tearing the rest of the NBA asunder. Should they get that quality big man, and Kyrie Irving learns to keep his ego in check, Lebron can take this team to the top; I have no doubt about that. In his first go around with the Cavs, Lebron was a king; in his second coming he strives to become a hero. Magic, Bird, Dr. J, Russell, they all never left. Barkley, Moses Malone, and Shaq, those guys left and never came back. Jordan came back to Chicago, but he didn’t do so after playing for another team. Lebron will be the first superstar to do such a thing, proving that he isn’t Magic and he isn’t Jordan, he’s Lebron James. And that is enough of a homecoming for himself and the Cavaliers.

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