I’ve been hard on LeBron James in the past. I wasn’t a fan of how he left the Cleveland Cavaliers with “the decision”, and I thought it took him out of the conversation of all time greatest.
Mind you, prior to his leaving Cleveland I was a big fan of LeBron’s. And as big of a Michael Jordan fan as I am, for the first time, I thought one of the so-called heir apparents, LBJ, actually had a chance to eclipse MJ. So, while I wasn’t in the burning jerseys crowd, and I did think Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert went too far in his letter in response to the decision, I was feeling some sports hate (not to be confused with actual hate), for LeBron.
But his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers and his letter on Sports Illustraded.Com has me feeling the sports love (not to be confused with actual love) for LeBron. He opened himself up, shared honestly, took the high road in looking past Gilbert’s letter, and took ownership for his owns actions.
One of LeBron’s biggest cheerleaders, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, says it is now as if “the decision” never happened. I can’t go that far. From the point of view of how he handled the decision, yes, that part I can mostly agree with. It is officially time to move on from that aspect of it. (I have always tried to go by the saying, forgive don’t forget, learn don’t regret)
However, I still think his leaving Cleveland and needing Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat, champions prior to his arrival, to get over the hump, takes him out of the Jordan conversation. Colin will point out that Jordan never won until Scottie Pippen arrived. But the point Colin leaves out is that Pippen never won without Jordan as D. Wade did without James.
The leadership, the dual press conferences, Wade being a closer, these are things Jordan didn’t need from Pippen that helped LeBron grow as a player on and off the court.
I still think had LeBron never left Cleveland he was physically talented enough to lead them to a championship, but perhaps needed to grow mentally. And the truth is, by his own admission, he has. And that is a good thing. Besides, there are more important things in life than being the best of all time in basketball. And there is nothing wrong with being just one of the best. Even his most ardent haters can’t take that away from him.
Haters and cynics may cling to arguments like, well if the Heat were better positioned, if Wade wasn’t on his downside, if Cleveland didn’t have Kyrie Irving and a good foundation, or if there was a better option with another team, blah, blah, blah he wouldn’t have come back. All that is irrelevant. Bottom line is LeBron, as the most powerful man in the game, had all the choices in the world. He could have:
- Went on a ring hunt, and joined teams like the Chicago Bulls.
- He could have taken a two-year deal with a one year opt out to see how Miami retooled.
- Or taken a similar deal to play with the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony (someone he has allegedly always wanted to play with). And made max money in a year.
He could have done any of the above and more and still returned to Cleveland in the future. But he chose to go home now. He chose to take the high road with his former owner and see things from his and the fans perspective. He chose to do what was best for his family (something many say but do not follow through on). He chose a young team with promising talent but far from a guarantee of a championship.
I hope it doesn’t come easy, and that he and Cleveland have to work their way through it. Like Jordan’s Bulls had to do it with the Detroit Pistons, but it would be a nice story to see James lead Cleveland to a championship.