LeBron James is taking his talents back to Cleveland, according to a July 11 report from USA Today. James, 29, spent the past four seasons with the Miami Heat, earning two championships in four straight trips to the NBA Finals. The Akron, Ohio native could have easily stayed in South Beach for the rest of his career, but he opted to return to his home state to right some of the perceived wrongs he committed by bolting town in 2010.
Today, basketball fans in Cleveland are celebrating the return of a four-time MVP who delivered plenty of joyful moments to the city in the early-2000s. Is he completely forgiven? On one hand, fans absolutely realize he's a once-in-a-generation type of player who has already been selected to ten NBA All-Star teams and won two championships. James is a dominating force, both on offense and defense. He's the type of player who can carry an entire team on his back throughout a postseason, as he did with the Heat this past season when Dwyane Wade was injured.
On the other hand, it's going to be difficult to get over the way James left Cleveland four years ago. James' 60-minute special -- “The Decision” -- which aired on ESPN in 2010, left a bitter taste in the mouths of Ohio basketball fans. The way James appeared to betray Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, and his choice of words when announcing that he was heading to Miami, didn't sit well with fans in Cleveland. Soon after the special aired, James become a villain in his home state of Ohio, as Cleveland sports fans were spotted burning his jerseys and tearing down any signage sporting his likeness.
James was loudly booed every time he returned to Cleveland since that fateful night four years ago, and fans still haven't completely forgiven him. Cleveland is a long-suffering sports town, starved for its first championship in decades. The way he left town was almost unforgivable, being that Cavs Gilbert wasn't kept in the loop throughout the process. He was upset about the way James bolted town just as much Cleveland's fans were, as he posted a letter on the team website calling the superstar a slew of insulting names.
James left the Cavs just as he was hitting his prime playing years, and those seasons are something Ohio fans will never get back. Let's face it: James is inching closer to his 30th birthday and basketball players tend to start declining around that age. Of course, the superstar forward should have enough gas left in the tank for at least three to four solid seasons.
Will he be fully forgiven in Cleveland? Not right away, but winning has a way of making sports fans forget about past sins. If James is able to deliver the city of Cleveland its first championship since the 1950s, he'll once again become a beloved figure in the state where he grew up.