The startling announcement that Lebron James will return home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers has set the sports world all ajumble. Of course, the world's finest basketball player will be paid handsomely for his efforts on the court, but this move means so much more than simple economics. We have come to believe that sports professionals are disconnected from real life, that they seek only short-term profits and, as mercenaries for hire, they will play wherever the money is best and the lights shine the brightest. Could it really be that some professional athletes have a heart as well?
Lebron turned his back on his hometown when he announced his departure in 2010 with such great fanfare. He has explained that he now understands things he did not fully appreciate four years ago when he "took his talents" to South Beach. (Actually, the Miami Heat play nowhere near South Beach.) Lebron appreciated his experience in Miami and for good reasons. He and his teammates won two championship rings, but, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Lebron has learned that "there's no place like home."
Lebron can afford to make this decision. He has demonstrated his prowess on the court, even if the Heat were deposed as NBA champions by the San Antonio Spurs a few weeks back. Lebron, D-Wade and Chris Bosch, by joining forces, have shown that the players control this sport. The club owners and League officials may make the managerial decisions, but, using free agency, the players have the ability to control the destiny of team franchises. These three talented ballplayers decided to join their talents together and make the Heat the League's best team. They were well compensated for their efforts, and now they will go their own ways, but their imprint on the business of basketball was indelible.
Lebron's return to Northeast Ohio will be of critical importance to the region. I lived in Cleveland for 12 years, and no other city has suffered from such an unwarranted inferiority complex. With premier medical institutions, universities and an art museum second to none, Cleveland is a great place to live and raise a family. Lebron now seems to appreciate that.
Lebron does not promise his hometown folks that he will bring them redemption, but he will bring them pride which is necessary for reconstruction. Perhaps the youngsters of Northeast Ohio may follow his lead and stay nearer to home where they can contribute the Cleveland revitalization.
The Cavaliers will once again be ranked among the best clubs in the NBA's Eastern Conference. Lebron's presence will attract other premier free agents and his mentorship will turn the young Cavaliers into potential all-stars. It will be fun for the people of Cleveland to watch their basketball team prosper. A Cleveland professional sports team has not won a national title in 50 years, since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964. It won't take Lebron that long to end the drought.
Sports giveth and taketh away. Tonight the fans of Brazil are still mourning their World Cup loss to Germany, but there will be dancing in the streets of Cleveland. One man can make a difference when it comes to sport, especially when he shows that, even if belatedly, he is a man who knows where he comes from. Congratulations to the people of Northeast Ohio. Cleveland rocks, and the prodigal son has returned home.