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LeBron James announces return to Cleveland Cavaliers - Sports Illustrated letter as told to Lee Jenkins

Stashed in: Basketball, Awesome, Einstein, Heroes!, Well played, sir., Gandhi, Michael Jordan, Florida!, LeBron James, Ohio, Grantland!

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I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.

To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned -- seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge? 

His wife is his high school sweetheart. They met in Ohio.

LeBron going to Miami for four years is like the equivalent of him going to college.

Now he's going home.

In doing so, EVERYONE respects the move. Well done, LeBron.

Of course he WILL maintain residence in Florida. Because, you know, favorable for taxes.

Because beautiful state!!

And beautiful lack of taxes!!

So when LeBron wrote that Sports Illustrated piece, he explained himself … but not really. Because here’s what he couldn’t say.

I am a genius. That genius has a shelf life. I already feel my body wearing down a little. Over the last 11 years, including the playoffs, I played 1,000 of a possible 1,044 games, averaged nearly 40 minutes per game and logged 39,993 minutes in all. Only Wilt and Russell reached 40,000 minutes faster than I will. I want to be part of something that’s greater than me. I am tired of carrying teams for nine months a year. I thought Wade and Bosh would help me, and they did for a while, but now Wade is breaking down and Bosh is past his prime.

The more I thought about it, I loved the idea of playing with a younger, more athletic and more malleable supporting cast. I loved the idea of being able to play four positions again. I loved the thought of being occasionally carried by young legs instead of always doing the carrying. I want to play point forward. I want to play with my back to the basket. I want to run the wing on fast breaks again — something I couldn’t do in Miami anymore. I want to use all of my skills. I am Magic and Larry and Barkley and Malone in the same body. I am an artist. That’s what I am.

And if he feels that way … can you blame him?

Translation: "The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was much less likely to get injured playing the lame teams of the Eastern Conference than the strong superpowers of the Western Conference. Since Wade and Bosh are getting old, I decided to go back to Cleveland where they'll surround me with youngsters to do the heavy lifting so I can take on the Tim Duncan role in my own hometown."

Actually, he's done an admirable job of not complaining about Wade and Bosh. Good on him.

By the way, how lucky is Cleveland to get Johnny Football AND LeBron James within a few months?

It's like the city suddenly has some decent sports franchise prospects...

God loves Cleaveland!

Kevin Love loves Cleveland!

If Cleveland can figure out a way to get Kevin Love they will officially be the NBA's new Superteam!

Btw I love it when Bill Simmons wrote:

I believe him. I think he wanted to come home. I think he always wanted to come home.

And also this:

Those four Miami seasons made me sure of one thing: He’s one of the greatest NBA players ever. Now he’s pursuing a greater challenge: bringing Cleveland its first title in 50 years in any sport. Add everything up and it’s the best possible story. He’s the conquering hero who came home, and, hopefully, will conquer again.

It’s also not entirely accurate. I think LeBron would have stayed in Miami — for at least one or two more years — if he truly believed he had a chance to keep winning there.

If you think of him like a genius, it makes more sense. He’s smarter about basketball than you and me, and, really, anyone else. He sees things that we can’t see. During that last Miami season, I don’t think he liked what he saw from his teammates. LeBron James wanted to come back to Cleveland, but he also wanted to flee Miami. His heart told him to leave, but so did his brain. And his brain works like very few brains — not just now, but ever.

And I love this description of Michael Jordan's genius:

It wasn’t just Jordan’s ability to flip geometry and gravity against his competitors, Collins explained, or how he saw entire sequences of plays before they happened. Jordan spent more time reading people than Phil Ivey. He studied their faces, weighed their body language, solved their tells. He did this quickly and instinctively. If a particular opponent seemed weak, Jordan kept attacking until that person broke. If he sensed that a particular teammate would fail him, he’d gesture to Collins to remove that person from the game. All these years later, Collins delights in imitating how Jordan did it — by making eye contact with his coach, glancing toward the offending teammate, then unleashing one of those “Get him the F out of here” grimaces. Almost always, his instincts were right.

David Halberstam once wrote that sociologist Harry Edwards “talked about Jordan representing the highest level of human achievement, on the order of Gandhi, Einstein or Michelangelo.” If that’s true — and I don’t think it’s far-fetched — then Jordan’s situation was particularly interesting because he couldn’t succeed without the assistance of teammates and coaches. Jordan weeded out weaker personalities and relentlessly pushed the ones that might have helped him. Teammate B.J. Armstrong became so frustrated by Jordan’s withering personality, he checked out library books about geniuses hoping to understand the man better. Really, it wasn’t hard. Jordan’s teammates needed to come through for him … or else.

Of course, the greatest sequence of Jordan’s career didn’t involve teammates: Game 6 of the 1998 Finals, 41.9 seconds remaining, Chicago trailing by three. Pippen inbounded the ball at half court, and after that, nobody on Chicago touched it again. Jordan ripped through Utah’s defense for a floating layup, swiped the ball from Karl Malone like he was snatching a purse, then drained the title-winning jumper in Bryon Russell’s mug. It wasn’t just the storybook ending that made it so unforgettable, or even Jordan’s incomparable brilliance, but how premeditated everything seemed. There was something genuinely spooky about it.


From December 1990 through the 1998 Finals, not including his baseball sabbatical, the Chicago Bulls never lost three straight games with Jordan. Given the unforgiving NBA schedule, nonstop travel and general wear and tear, that’s basically impossible. But it happened. The man hated losing THAT much. Either he brought the best out of a teammate or he dumped that teammate like a showrunner killing off a struggling character. Keep up or get out.

Look what else Cleveland gets:

Not sure that's a good thing.

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