WASHINGTON — I guess you can go home again.
LeBron James is set to prove as much in the upcoming season. The King will again rest his crown in Cleveland, the place he spent his first seven NBA seasons before a rather, um, contentious move to Miami which introduced the term “taking my talents to South Beach” into the American vernacular.
This is absolutely the right move for LeBron. I’m not sure there was even a decent Plan B. The Heat got old rapidly (I mean, the Spurs looked younger than they did in the Finals) and wouldn’t factor into the championship discussion for much longer anyway. The Lakers, Suns and Rockets weren’t going to be good fits.
The Cavaliers have a good, young team that was actually bolstered by LeBron’s departure. The Cavs owned the first overall pick in three of the last four drafts (which were used to take Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett, and Andrew Wiggins) and have cleared enough cap space to accommodate LeBron’s return and add reinforcements.
Perhaps most importantly, LeBron stays in the weak Eastern Conference, where there’s no longer a clear front-runner.
That’s just from a basketball standpoint. LeBron’s return means so much more, though.
Now that he’s won his rings, LeBron seems locked in on his legacy. He knows he has to right a perceived wrong. The Decision is perhaps the single worst decision LeBron ever made, and his two championship rings are the only reason why we’ve largely forgiven that colossal misstep.
That, and the fact that LeBron chose right. He went to a place he could win multiple titles and he did (though he could have stopped his infamous “not one…not two…” quote right there). Now he returns to Ohio as a savior: the league’s best player comes home with championship pedigree, eager to bring the same level of success to a title-starved town.
LeBron James posted this photo to his official Instagram account moments after his announcement. (Instagram/@kingjames)
Unlike a return to Miami or going to L.A., LeBron can’t lose by going to Cleveland. If he never wins another title, the perception will be that the Cavaliers failed him again. If he wins even one title in Cleveland, that’s like a three-peat in another city. If he brings just one championship banner to Quicken Loans Arena, he’s this generation’s Jim Brown.
(Or this generation’s Parker Lewis. Either way.)
Regardless of what happens long term, James will certainly take Cleveland from a lottery team to a squad that can nail down a high seed in the playoffs immediately. If the Cavs complete a Big 3 of James, Irving, and Kevin Love (whom the Cavs are working to get out of Minnesota), a deep playoff run could come sooner rather than later.
Even if the Cavaliers pull that off, don’t bank on the O’Brien Trophy coming to Cleveland in 2015, though. Love and Irving have never made the playoffs and the NBA is a league that requires the paying of postseason dues before enjoying championship glory.
But the power of King James has been displayed in full. Not only did LeBron single-handedly hijack the entire free agent market by taking his sweet time to make this decision, but he managed to shift the balance of power in the Eastern Conference in the process.
This time, he hasn’t left a city stunned and reeling by his departure. Miami is a place generally more interested in beaches and parties than championship parades. So this time around, don’t count on LeBron jersey burnings…just a sharp increase in his jersey sales.
Long live The King.