LAS VEGAS – The news hit like a cool breeze off the sea, anticipated and altogether welcome. LeBron was going back home. Going back to Cleveland, a town long in search of anything besides another kick to the heart.
This was a man all grown up, making the perfect move, at precisely the right time, for all the noble reasons.
When a man has had so much, has lived his dream, rewound it and lived it again, it only makes sense to look for something more. To search for a deeper meaning and wonder if indeed it could be found.
LeBron longed to play alongside his friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He did. LeBron yearned to win a championship. He did, and then did it again. The Heat, behind James and Wade and Bosh, went to four consecutive NBA Finals. The titles were sweet and delicious and everything LeBron needed them to be. Still, there was this need for . . . love? And, certainly, for the kind of fulfillment that could only come through success in Cleveland.
No group of American sports fans has suffered through more agony and humiliation than those who follow the Cleveland teams. The NFL team, for so many reasons, literally may have shortened lives. The MLB team, mocked so perfectly on film, has known times good and bad but is afflicted with the fatigue of generational failure. The NBA team was revived by teenage LeBron, who grew up down the road, only to be victimized by the public rejection by young superstar LeBron, who departed in the pursuit of happiness.
And now happiness, true happiness, means going back to Cleveland. That's where LeBron can most satisfy his family. That's where he can most energize and delight a fan base he once devastated.
Northeast Ohio, as he referred to the area in the essay announcing his return, is where LeBron can win more hearts and touch more souls and, above all, reach the highest levels of contentment.
This obviously is not about money. Nor is it about pride. Or even redemption. And it's not about a reunion with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert who went public with his obscenely furious response to LeBron's departure back in 2010. It was a very unbecoming look for Gilbert; he didn't seem to care that it painted him as a wealthy clown bereft foresight, much less class.
LeBron, hurt at the time, can overlook all of that. He can get past the boil-over fury that defined Cleveland in the wake of his departure. Truth be told, he surely understood the reasons behind the civic outburst.
And, no, he's not returning to please the fans of Cleveland.
This is about one man living his dream and then, after four years of maturity, realizing the dream he had at 25 is not enough to sustain him into his 30s.
LeBron is choosing the great challenge of tomorrow over the instant gratification he chased yesterday. He's a made man in the NBA, and a made man can do as he pleases.
He goes not to a Cleveland team without talent. There is Kyrie Irving, the mercurial young All-Star point guard. There is Dion Waiters, the emotional and physically explosive shooting guard. There is the new coach, David Blatt, who comes with the reputation of a hoops savant.
Four years ago, when LeBron on TV and informed a curious nation that he was going to "take my talents to South Beach," it was the result of a calculated decision. He listened to the voice in his head.
This time, LeBron is dancing to beat of the song in his heart. His return is being widely hailed as a wonderful story. It is.