It came out of nowhere. As the basketball world continued its quest for any bit of information in the LeBron James Free Agency Apocalypse Decision 2.0 Announcement of Infinite Justice, all seemed quiet on the Eastern front. There was no indication that with a simple click of a mouse, the entire NBA landscape would be transformed. But here it is. LeBron James is a Cleveland Cavalier, as reported by Sports Illustrated and with the help of LeBron’s own words:
I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and Riles didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together. That’s absolutely not true.
I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.
When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.
I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.
And like that, everything is forgiven. That’s been one of the linchpins in the argument for many basketball observers when trying to wrap their minds around the idea of LeBron going back to Cleveland. How could James forgive Dan Gilbert and the letter? How could he forgive Cleveland fans for the way they reacted when he left? He could he be part of that community again?
As LeBron tells it, he never really left. It’s not that he’s coming home, because his heart has always really been there. And now he’s physically back. Forgiveness likely didn’t come easy, but LeBron is a bigger person than many of us, both literally and figuratively. It’s evident in an on-court game predicated on the success of the whole and building his teammates up instead of tearing them down. Where the more callous and hardened among us voiced an inability to get over such transgressions were they to happen to us, LeBron chose to rise above the vitriol and hate and to forgive.
Beyond and above the basketball implications, it’s a noble decision, and it should be celebrated. Perhaps what Dan Gilbert and Cavaliers fans did was unforgivable in the abstract. But LeBron makes the impossible happen every day. Today is no exception.