I’m no Cleveland Cavaliers fan. I’m not from the state of Ohio. I’m not from the United States. I never expected myself to be happy for the town of Cleveland and state of Ohio when LeBron James announced his decision to return home.
However, after reading the fine article in Sports Illustrated by James as told by Lee Jenkins, it gave me chills and an even greater respect for one of my favourite players. Going back to Cleveland seemed like such an easy decision basketball-wise, yet that was not the main reason. Cleveland was James’ home and his heart never left.
For those that never leave home to go off to college, your hometown always has a place in your heart. It is where you grew up. It is where you made your best friends and enemies. It shapes you into the person you are today. You share that special connection together and it is a bond that money cannot buy.
James was raised by a single mother in Akron, Ohio. It was where he played his AAU ball alongside his friends Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III, Romeo Travis, and Willie McGee. They attended St. Vincent-St.Mary High School where they continued to play basketball and won a State Championship.
High school was also the place where James turned to marijuana to help deal with the stress being placed onto him by the media. In the 2008 documentary, “More Than a Game,” James and his teammates were followed from their AAU days throughout their high school careers.
It truly was more than just that. It was a brotherhood. It extended off the court where the boys would pick up one another when one was down. Until this day, the “Fab Five” remain very close as if James never left.
Akron was also where he met his high school sweet heart, Savannah Brinson. A hometown kid herself, the bright lights and beaches of Miami was nice, but it was not her thing. It just didn’t feel like home. “The LeBron James Family Foundation,” has been based in Akron since 2005 and promotes the importance and value of education.
Seeing James go off to South Beach was like a kid getting in a fight with his parents just before taking off to university. “The Decision” was a messy way to go out for a young 25 year-old man still trying to figure things out. Despite this, it was the right decision. He had to get away from home.
As a university student, I grew up in ways that I wouldn’t have if I stayed at home. I am a better person because of it. As a member of the Miami Heat, James grew up and became a complete player. Offensively, he was more efficient and developed a post game. On the other side of the ball, James was as versatile of a defender in the league guarding multiple positions in the “small ball” employed by Coach Eric Spoelstra.
The Heat reached 4 straight final appearances in as many seasons. James won a pair of MVPs and championships. However, winning in a Heat jersey was bittersweet. Sure, James had the rings he had long strived for but the moment didn’t feel right.
After receiving the finals MVP in 2012, James said, “This right here is the happiest day of my life and I wouldn’t want to spend it with nobody else in the world besides my teammates, these fans. Oh my god you guys are unbelievable! And it’s a dream come true.”
It was not at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. It was not at home in front of the friends and family who had watched him grow up, the only people who could truly relate to and appreciate what James has been through. Instead, we were hearing those words at American Airlines Arena in Miami, not exactly the life-long dream of “The kid from Akron.”
I can relate to Cleveland in many ways being from Toronto. The heartbreak and losing extends far beyond the 23 years of my existence on Earth. The Toronto Maple Leafs are working on a 47th season since their last Stanley Cup, the Toronto Raptors have won a single playoff series in 20 years, and it has been 23 years since Joe “touched them all.” Our cities don’t know what winning is. We’re starving for a winner and someone to get behind.
The time has never been better for James to come home. The local economy is in a terrible state. Businesses are closed down and boarded up. Half the stores within shopping malls are bankrupt. Aside from the casino downtown, it has become a ghost town in some parts.
The return of James will do wonders to help get the local economy back on track. It is important not to underestimate the power and influence of one person. I’ve seen it before my very eyes with Vince Carter.
There’s a whole generation of young Canadians playing basketball because of him. As I alluded to earlier, James’ foundation is based in Akron. His presence in the community will help keep kids out of trouble and off the streets.
James’ story is one that can inspire the next generation of kids to make something out of their lives. After all, he was in their same shoes not too long ago. James has changed his legacy. He was once viewed as selfish, only after rings. He was the villain.
Webster defines the word, “revision,” as a set of changes that correct or improves something. By returning home, James has completed the “revision.” His time in South Beach was James’ graduation from college and he’s more humble because of it.
James can now be the hero he dreamt of being as a young kid from Akron, Ohio. He can hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of the people that mean the most. It wasn’t a mistake to leave four years ago. James just needed to undergo a “revision,” to make him realize that there’s no place like home.