On Friday afternoon, after 10 days of rumor, hearsay and plane-tracking, LeBron James announced he was returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers in an essay posted by Sports Illustrated. The move was universally lauded, with pundits and fans alike agreeing that James's return to the team that drafted him was one of the best sports storylines ever. We agreed. Our resident assistant content director, a native of Cleveland, breaks down exactly why it could go down as one of the greatest moments in sports history.
1. "Home" Still Means Something
For some, "home" is a place you can't wait to escape. For others, home is a fixture, a place that pulls at you and whispers to you to return no matter where you might travel. To those who grew up in Northeast Ohio, home has always been more than just a word.
LeBron James gave that sentiment validation when, after four years in Miami, he succumbed to the call of his hometown of Akron.
"My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball," James wrote. "I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now."
Northeast Ohio felt forgotten when LeBron left us. We were wrong. We never left LeBron's mind at all.
2. Cleveland's Renaissance Hits the National Spotlight
Cleveland has long been showered with tired jokes, and the next person to mention the Cuyahoga River catching on fire, oh, 50 years or so ago, will be the one millionth to make that "clever" reference. Oh, another Comic Sans joke? How original! Perhaps each and every joke feels played out because Cleveland has undergone a serious renovation.
We didn't need LeBron James to return to validate our newfound coolness, but his commitment to the Cavs has put our fair city's rebirth on the front lines. NBC's Meet the Press recently ran a story about Cleveland securing the 2016 Republican National Convention. The New York Times has written multiple articles about the great stuff that's going on by Lake Erie. We also make some of the best beer in the world at the Great Lakes Brewing Company.
LeBron will only make the spotlight brighter.
3. Johnny Manziel, Andrew Wiggins and LeBron James Will All Be in the Same Place
You have to go back to the mid-90s Cleveland Indians, with guys like Albert Belle, Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton and Manny Ramirez all playing on one team, for a time period when the 216 had multiple, bonafide sports stars doing their thing at the same time.
With former Heisman Trophy winner and swan float enthusiast Johnny Manziel already in the fold, adding Andrew Wiggins, the Cavs' number 1 NBA Draft pick, whom some have called the Canadian LeBron James, and James has turned Cleveland into the center of the sports universe.
Drake's already looking for real estate.
4. Kyrie Irving Has a Chance to Truly Flourish
Kyrie Irving had an electric rookie season three years ago as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but since then, things have been somewhat of a roller coaster. His shooting percentage has declined every season. His defense, especially on the pick and roll, has been largely atrocious. During Fan Appreciation Night in 2013, he strolled off the court when he was supposed to stay to sign autographs.
Then there were rumors of a rift in the locker room last season between Irving and Dion Waiters. The situation was "cleared up" during the most awkward media session ever.
Enter LeBron. Not only will James make Irving an infinitely better player (can you picture the two of them on the fast break? My goodness!), but he will press fast forward on Irving's sluggish maturation process. He will hold Irving accountable on the court and off, something Irving hasn't had to contend with in his first three years in the league. If Irving (who's still only 22 years old) is serious about becoming one of the best point guards in the NBA, James will help him make it happen.
5. We Can Finally Stop Talking About "The Decision" and the "Letter"
July 8, 2010 was an awful night. LeBron James announced he was leaving Cleveland for Miami in one of the worst PR stunts in recent memory, and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert responded with a letter to fans that was on the same scathing level as a certain Nas song aimed at Jay-Z.
With reports citing that the two giants of industry patched things up during a super-secret but not-so-secret meeting in Miami last weekend, we can finally put to rest those two awful actions and their smoldering aftermath. They simply don't matter anymore.
6. The 2014 Cavaliers Home Opener Will Induce Goosebumps
I'm picturing it now. The lights dim and a video montage plays, chock full of LeBron's best moments as a Cleveland Cavalier. His dunk over Kevin Garnett. His 25 straight points against the Detroit Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. His Hail Mary 3-pointer against the Orlando Magic. Any and all of his dunks. The highlight reel ends, and a single spotlight finds LeBron sitting on the bench, tears in his eyes as the words "He's Home" appear on the 28-foot-high video scoreboard at Quicken Loans Arena. The crowd stands and cheers for almost five minutes. I'll be shedding grown-man tears without a doubt.
7. More of This
8. And Hopefully This
9. And Definitely This
10. Oh! And This. He Had So Much More Fun in Cleveland
11. It Proves That Fans Are Just That...Fanatics
12. The (Hopeful) Return of the Witness Billboard
13. LeBron's Heartfelt Essay
14. It Humanizes One of the Best Athletes of All Time
15. What a Boost to Cleveland's Economy!
16. The Return of the Iconic Dunk
17. The Nike LeBron XII Gets a Jump Start
18. The Witness Car Can Finally Come Back
19. The Cavs Might Wear Those Awesome Throwback Jerseys Again
20. Members of the National Media Who Diss Small Markets Must Now Show Respect
21. The Cleveland Cavaliers Won't Win the NBA Lottery Again Next Year
22. The LeBron James Puppet Commercials Will Start Up Again
23. LeBron Could Bring Cleveland Its First Championship Since 1964
If James is able to help the Cavs capture the elusive title Cleveland so desperately seeks, all hell will break loose. They will build statues of him around town. He'll never pay for a meal or drink in the city as long as he lives. They'll rename the Terminal Tower "The LeBron James Tower." He's already called The King, but if he wins a championship here, he'll be a god. People will party for days, and everyone will remember where they were the day the Cavaliers hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy. For now, we can only imagine.
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