LeBron Changes Image
July 17, 2014
Though I strongly felt in these pages that LeBron James would ultimately return to Cleveland this summer, his announcement late last week still sent the NBA world reeling.
Therefore, I feel the bigger story here is not about James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I see it being about a man growing up, maturing, and breaking free.
How so you ask? Let’s go back four years. Back to the Decision. During the free agency period of 2010, James embraced the attention and fell in love with the spectacle he created with his skills. Ultimately, in a made for TV announcement that lasted well over an hour, James announced he was leaving Cleveland to sign with fellow stars and 2003 draftees Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
LeBron, back to Cleveland
The world erupted and a high majority of fans, especially those in northeast Ohio, felt betrayed. LeBron was supposed to lead his Cavaliers into battles with rivals like Wade and the Heat, Kobe and the Lakers, and Duncan and the Spurs. Like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan did before him. Instead, he joined his rivals. Past legends voiced their disapproval while saying they would have never joined their rivals.
James took a major public relations hit. Despite it being clear that he seems to want to please everyone. And everyone was saying Cleveland would never win a title, no matter how well James played. Couple this with media, therefore society, were already stating he could never be mentioned as an all-time great until he won multiple championships.
So, a young LeBron chose to take his talents to Miami where he did win two NBA titles.
It is my belief that James had to leave, to grow up and realize that he is one of the best players ever. He truly has a unique combination of speed, strength, and an analytical mind. His first decision led to the championships he covers. His second decision returns him home. It is obvious to me that he loved being Cleveland’s natural treasure, in terms of athletes. James spoke last week of not realizing just how much he missed being home. He did not speak of making a mistake leaving the area in 2010 but did say he made mistakes in how he produced the Decision.
James is back now and his back with a self-assurance of a champion. And you know his motivation to bring northeast Ohio a title will be strong. LeBron announced his 2014 decision in a well-written and well-thought out essay. His words show just how much he has grown.
Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert
In fact, one could say his personal growth matches the maturation in his game. James was a kid four years ago who needed a place to grow. He returns home now choosing to give himself to something bigger than the game.
To a community. This time around, James is receiving positive media coverage. Perhaps that is because everyone can relate to the fact that no matter how far we wander, we can always go home.
More Thoughts On James Decision
Though James decision did not surprise me, I have to wonder how he felt four years ago when Cleveland and northeast Ohio turned on him. His choice of leaving the Cavaliers led to great acrimony and anger, especially from team owner Dan Gilbert. Their was a public letter from Gilbert, there was booing from the Cleveland fans, more fans burning his jersey. James’ view on this now is that he can now see how he angered fans. He speaks of putting himself in their position and understanding. He has asked himself in public - “Who am I to hold a grudge?”
You can count on the people in the greater Cleveland area letting go of their grudge. While James’s absence from Cleveland has only been four years, it had to feel like an eternity for his hometown. They watched as James led the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals in four straight seasons. They watched as James lifted two title trophies with the Heat. They had to feel like the hardware were supposed to be their trophies. They watched James ride through South Beach in victory parades, knowing he should be riding along the shores of Lake Erie. James said last week that his relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball.
I have not heard much talk coming out of Miami. I doubt there is not a whole lot of sympathy for the Heat. It has to be a stressful time for the franchise and city. They got two championships out of the deal so they have to show gratitude. But they have be feel somewhat burned over James leaving town. Some will say that James chased championships and basically used the city and fans of Miami to get some. They will say that he threw his homeboy Dwayne Wade and many others under the bus.
What about the power rankings within the Eastern Conference of the NBA. Cleveland did not make the playoffs last year and actually got the number-one pick in the 2014, Andrew Wiggins. I have the Cavs winning the East. That is what the signing of James did for Cleveland. If the Cavaliers can obtain Kevin Love, they might be championship favorites. New coach David Blatt is considered an offensive genius and he now has the best offensive player on the planet in James.
Despite landing James, Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert is not being lauded as a hero. He is actually being labeled as someone who does not deserve the good fortune of James returning home. Nationally, he was seen as a child in the midst of a long crying fit. Gilbert could not grasp that he lost a superstar in James because he failed to put good enough talent around the home-state all-world talent he was blessed with. Well, he has James back. One question I have not heard asked yet is can Cleveland win a title, even with LeBron, with Gilbert owning the team?
Finally, Good News Coming Out Of Chapel Hill
After all the negative news coming out of Chapel Hill recently, I felt like I had to share this with you after seeing a positive headline for UNC.
Look out for a breakout season for Carolina center, Kennedy Meeks. The 6-9 big man has shed off close to 50 pounds during the offseason and appears on the brink of having a big season for the Heels. This means that Meeks is down to 270 pounds and he is talking about losing even more weight.
Kennedy Meeks in March of this year
Averaging 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds last season, Meeks was clearly a talented but inconsistent player. For UNC to be a factor in the ACC next season, he’ll likely have to become a consistent double-double guy. That means playing upward of 30 minutes per game, which means stamina, which means shedding this weight is vital to producing and playing like a star.
Because James Michael McAdoo left school early a lot of the load will fall on Meeks and junior Brice Johnson.
North Carolina could be an intriguing team. It’s best player is Marcus Paige, a point guard who may end up being one of the better points in the nation. If Meeks can give Carolina a low-post option and allow Paige to bloom, then UNC could improve mightily from last season, when it finished as a No. 6 seed and failed to reach the Sweet 16.