The sports world received the news it was waiting for Friday when Lebron James announced he was leaving Miami to return home to Northeast Ohio to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lebron is an Akron native who had a lifelong dream fulfilled in 2004 when he was drafted number one overall by his hometown Cavaliers. After building a legacy in Cleveland for seven years and continually coming short of winning a championship, a frustrated Lebron took his talents to South Beach where he could team up with All-Stars Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. The Decision to take his talents to South Beach was a major blow to the struggling Midwest City, not just emotionally but financially. King James who is arguably America’s most polarizing and marketable athlete meant the world to Cleveland natives, from the kids who idolized him to the blue collar sports fans that paid their hard earned money to see him perform. When Lebron shocked Cleveland and left for greener pastures it wasn’t just a blow to a proud city’s ego, but it affected the livelihood of many downtown business owners in an already declining city.
After leaving Cleveland, King James elevated his game to a whole other level and was able to reach four straight Finals while winning two championships. In Miami, success came relatively easy with an all-star cast of teammates around him and a Hall of Fame general manager in Pat Riley. Even with all the winning in South Beach it wasn’t quite the same as the scene in Cleveland during their glory days. The Heat fan base didn’t have the same connection with the team as it did in Cleveland. Heat fans are notorious for leaving important games early in order to grab a table at one of the local night clubs. Even with all the Heat’s success during Lebron’s tenure in Miami, he still opted out of his contract after losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 Finals. The story took an even crazier turn when he turned down the glitz and glam of Miami to return home to the city he hurt so badly just four years earlier.
This story is much bigger than the sport of Basketball; this is a story of how a city helped raise a man who wants more than anything to give back. In America sports have the unique ability to bring together a community in ways few other activities can. This is especially the case in a sports crazed city like Cleveland, where fans have waited decades for a championship trophy. Lebron James had to check his ego when he decided to return home to Cleveland. The Cavs fan base and management openly cursed him and even burned his jerseys after his decision in 2010. However, with time comes forgiveness by both sides and now a super star is looking to rejuvenate the city that he owes all his successes to. Lebron said it best in his announcement to come back to Cleveland, “Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart.”