Four years ago, LeBron James made one of the most infamous choices in sports history when he made “The Decision” on ESPN in front of millions of viewers. His choice to do this on national television without informing his pursuers beforehand was highly scrutinized, and made him one of the most hated athletes in the world. Cleveland Cavaliers fans were devastated. They had lost their hometown hero, their glimpse of hope, their ringless king.
He was the ringless king. LeBron James never made a “promise” to Cleveland like so many suggested he did after his departure. The quote many people refer to is LeBron saying, “I got a goal, and it’s a huge goal, and that’s to bring an NBA championship here to Cleveland, and I won’t stop until I get it.” LeBron walked away from Cleveland despite not fulfilling this goal. The aftermath in Cleveland and all around Ohio was disastrous. The hero had become the villain. Jerseys were burned, letters were written. The thought of a LeBron return seemed inconceivable. His actions were deemed unforgivable, and the Cavs only option was to move forward.
In the second year of LeBron’s departure, Dan Gilbert’s letter was no longer valid. The ringless king was ringless no more and the Cavs continued to struggle without their star. LeBron James had a successful reign in Miami, four seasons and four trips to the finals. He did everything he wanted to do in Miami. He matured, he dealt with adversity, he won fans back over, and he finally won his championship.
LeBron James needed Miami; the progress in Cleveland had stopped. The two reasons are invariable. You can either believe that the front office was unable to provide James with the appropriate supporting cast or that James was unable to carry his team to a championship like he was supposed to. Regardless, the Cleveland Cavaliers seemed cemented to second place or worse.
James did what was right for him. He chose a change in scenery. He got an extremely capable supporting cast that he proved he could carry time and time again. Four years after his decision, LeBron is indisputably the best basketball player in the world. He is capable of doing every thing possible on a basketball court to lead his team to victory. His leadership is unquestionable and he is truly a coach on the court. These qualities may not have been 100 percent true while in Cleveland, but the entire experience in his move has grown him into everything you could ask of a player.
The Cleveland Cavaliers needed LeBron James’ absence; the team was over the hill. Other than LeBron, the Cavs were a team filled with mostly older players past their primes. Being a top team every season, the draft picks were late and the talent was minimal. They brought in past-their-prime players like Shaq and Antawn Jamison to put them over the top but it never quite worked.
If LeBron had stayed, the Cavs would have been an annual contender. The talent around him would have remained limited, but he would’ve continued to carry them close to their title. There would’ve been no first overall picks to lift them to the top. The departure of LeBron allowed the Cavs to rebuild. They’ve drafted players like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Andrew Wiggins to revamp this team and build it into a contender for years to come. This process has now given them back their hero.
There was nothing left in Miami for LeBron. He has proven he can win now. There is no argument about rings to deny him as the best player of our current generation and as a top ten player of all-time. The one thing that can lift him up to all-time great status is to achieve his goal: win a ring in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers organization has done what he’s always wanted. They’ve built a strong roster filled with young, promising talent to support LeBron in delivering the ring that Cleveland so desperately wants. James will no longer have to depend on old, worn out legs to pass the ball to every night. He can relax on offense at times and let Kyrie control the game. With a very capable perimeter defender in Wiggins, he doesn’t necessarily have to guard the best offensive wing player on the other team. We might actually see a LeBron in the playoffs that isn’t mentally and physically exhausted from carrying an older team every night during the season on offense and defense. He can now win championships in his hometown and escalate himself to the potential heights of Jordan type success.
LeBron chose the high road this time around, showing his gained maturity. His free agency process was quiet and professional. The meetings were private with the information coming out of them very small. There was no nationally televised show and he delivered the decision in a professional letter. There will still be the critics saying LeBron could’ve let the Heat or Dwyane Wade know at an earlier time, but LeBron has the right to make his decision at his own pace and doesn’t have to adhere to anyone else when he does. LeBron James got it right this time.
It’s a story all too cliché to believe, but it’s the right story. I’ve always been one of the first people to criticize LeBron for his mistakes. He’s finally owned up to it; he’s admitted he was wrong. He’s chosen to do the right thing and give the passionate Ohio fans and himself a chance at the ring that’s deserved. The fans, Dan Gilbert, LeBron James and nearly everyone have seemed to make their amends and you should too. It’s time to get to work. I’ve never thought I’d be one to say it, but I’m rooting for you Cleveland.