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LeBron James will return to Cleveland Cavaliers

By Tim Reynolds & Tom Withers

AP Sports Writers

LAST UPDATED: 05:56 a.m. HST, Jul 12, 2014

CLEVELAND >> If LeBron James was going to win another NBA title, heal broken hearts and continue building his legacy, he knew there was only one place to go.

To Ohio. Home.

Four years after he left for Miami, a widely criticized departure that damaged his image and crushed a long-suffering city's championship hopes, James is coming back to play for the Cavaliers to try and end Cleveland's half-century title drought. He's returning to his basketball roots, to the people who know him best to make good on a promise.

The talented kid from Akron, now a homecoming king.

James made the announcement Friday with a powerful essay written for Sports Illustrated. His decision ended two weeks of speculation about his future with teams across the league waiting on his move.

In the end, he chose Cleveland over re-signing with the Heat.

"I looked at other teams, but I wasn't going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland," he said to SI. "The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy."

James had not yet signed a contract, but he made it clear he will wear a Cavaliers jersey next season.

"When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission," James said in the SI first-person story. "I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn't had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what's most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio."

James is the league's best all-around player, a four-time MVP who was dubbed "The Chosen One" as a can't-miss high school star. At 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, he can score from all over and is one of the game's best passers and defenders.

Staying in Miami would have been easy. He could have made another run at a third title and fifth straight NBA finals appearance with the Heat and close friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the other members of a "Big 3" who have been the league's team-to-hate since 2010.

Instead, James picked the young, unproven Cavs, with a rookie coach who spent last year in Israel. Almost unbelievably, he'll again work for owner Dan Gilbert, who torched James on his way out the door in 2010.

For Cleveland, a city accustomed to so much sports heartache -- as the Cavaliers, Browns and Indians have come close but failed to win it all -- news of James' return triggered a spontaneous downtown celebration during Friday's lunch hours.

Car horns blared and strangers high-fived on the sidewalks outside Quicken Loans Arena, where James had so many big moments during his first seven seasons as a pro.

Four years ago, some fans burned his jersey. On July 11, 2014, all was forgiven.

The Cavs were considered a longshot when free agency opened. But as the days went by, Cleveland improbably emerged as a possible landing spot over Miami. While he was in Las Vegas earlier this week, James met with Heat president Pat Riley, the architect who assembled Miami's back-to-back championship teams.

Riley made a final pitch, but he had nothing to match the overwhelming lure of home.

"Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio," James told SI. "... People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I'm their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me."

James' exit ends an era in Miami, and will likely lead to Bosh signing elsewhere. The Heat now face an uncertain future after four straight Eastern Conference titles. Wade and Bosh all opted out this summer, as did longtime Heat forward Udonis Haslem.

"I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB," James told SI. "I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And that's exactly what we did! The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys."

James was scorned for turning his back on Cleveland in 2010, announcing his decision on a poorly conceived TV special. His critics said he wasn't good enough to win a championship by himself, and that he needed to surround himself with All-Stars.

James may never surpass Michael Jordan's six titles, but his legacy could be being able to bring one to Cleveland, devoid of a championship in any sport since 1964.

"I'm not promising a championship," he said. "I know how hard that is to deliver. We're not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I'm realistic."

He's starting fresh with Gilbert, who famously wrote a blistering letter condemning James and calling him disloyal, narcissistic and cowardly.

At some point, the two worked out their differences.

"I've met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man," James said. "We've talked it out."

Gilbert, too, has moved on.

"I am excited for the fans and people of Cleveland and Ohio. No fans and people deserve a winner more than them," Gilbert said on Twitter.

Like a kid who spent four years away at college, James is coming back home.

James is more mature for his encore. He's a proven champion, married with two sons and a daughter on the way. They're all coming back to rejoin family and friends.

"I feel my calling here goes above basketball," he said. "I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I'm from. In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I'm ready to accept the challenge."


Tim Reynolds reported from Las Vegas and Tom Withers reported from Cleveland

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loquaciousone wrote:
And all together now you lolo Cleveland fans that burned your Lebron James jersey four years ago......awwww.....
on July 11,2014 | 07:16AM
blkdrgn wrote:
My coworker did that. Now he wishes he didn't. lol
on July 11,2014 | 12:38PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Good for him and good for Cleveland! 88 million is a lot, but I thought he'd get more.
on July 11,2014 | 07:43AM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
I think that's the max a team can offer a player that isn't already on their roster. Bosh needs to take it...I don't think he'll be a max contract player in four years.
on July 11,2014 | 08:59AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Thanks for the info!
on July 11,2014 | 11:12AM
gobows wrote:
88 mil, for Bosh right?
on July 11,2014 | 09:49AM
lwandcah wrote:
Sounds like this young man has grown up. I was one of those that was very disappointed in how the move from Cleveland to Miami was handled. He obviously learned from it and did not make the same mistake twice. It takes a big man to admit he was wrong (not in leaving, but the way it was done) and I think LeBron has done a great job. Sounds like he is getting advise from the right people now (mainly his wife) instead of hoodies. This is why we shouldn't draft NBA and MLB players right out of high school. Although there are always exceptions to the rule, the fact is at 17 or 18 you are not mature enough to deal with the magnitude of the issues you are thrown in the middle of.
on July 11,2014 | 10:16AM
scooters wrote:
Big bucks for just bouncing a ball? Amazing. I wonder how he could survive in the real world with a real job? Why do they pay these fools so much money?
on July 11,2014 | 09:46PM
mrluke wrote:
I guess now we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The suspense is over.
on July 11,2014 | 07:52AM
AhiPoke wrote:
As a fan of LeBron I like this move, especially with the Miami team showing its age. Now it'll be interesting if they can sign Kevin Love. They'd probably have to give up Wiggins but it would be worth it. Love's 25 pts. and 12 rbs. combined with LeBron and Kyrie Irving's 20 pts. and 6 asst. would make them a contender for the next 5-6 years.
on July 11,2014 | 08:54AM
mauiday wrote:
D-Wade opted out of the guaranteed money to try to hold the Big Three together. Now he gets the shaft while the others take the elevator to move up and get more money. If James was a friend to Wade, like he claims, then he should have let Wade know ahead of time, so Wade could make a decision that was best for him. James made the decision that was best for him but with no loyalty to Wade. Where is the loyalty these days????
on July 11,2014 | 08:54AM
shanik wrote:
Dwades made some much money over the yrs and Lebron won him two championships, hell be fine
on July 11,2014 | 09:05AM
islandsun wrote:
Yes, wade will be fine. Slowed anyway because of age & injuries. Lebron needs younger players around him contributing. For Lebron to put aside differences and make it happen shows he is a "real" man.
on July 11,2014 | 10:38AM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
Maybe Wade was the one who told Lebron to do what he needed to do. Maybe he told Lebron it was ok to leave Miami. Orrr, maybe no such conversation took place because they're grown-ups and professional athletes and understand nothing lasts forever and life (and careers) moves on.
on July 11,2014 | 09:05AM
fiveo wrote:
Who gives a rat's behind what this guy does.
on July 11,2014 | 09:18AM
gobows wrote:
on July 11,2014 | 09:49AM
blkdrgn wrote:
Let me guess you're a Kobe fan. lol
on July 11,2014 | 12:40PM
Konawayne wrote:
It was a master move by Lebron to go to Miami to a team like the Heat, let the Cavaliers fall apart, but get a lot of top picks for 4 years. Now he comes back with a lot of top talent. When he was at Cleveland he could not get great talent around him, no one wanted to come, and Cleveland was too good to draft high picks. Did Lebron have this in his mind before going to the Heat, of course! If the other talent on Cleveland does not pan out for 4 years and they don't make the playoffs, watch Lebron leave again or demand to be traded. When Wade was healthy, he was the one with the great talent. ;)
on July 11,2014 | 10:03AM
GorillaSmith wrote:
Great to see the vile Riley with that deer-in-the-headlights look. At least none of the Heat "fans" will be injured any time soon trying to get back inside the arena after they've given up on "their team". Go Cavs!
on July 11,2014 | 10:04AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Been a good couple of days for Cleveland; first the get the Republican National Convention (folks it doesn't matter if you are a Dem, Repub, or anything else, getting a national convention is a good thing), then King James comes home. What next - Johnny Manziel becomes the second coming of Bernie Kozar and Josh Gordon stops smoking dope?
on July 11,2014 | 11:23AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
We are all the good guys, the ones that comment on sports. Only geezers comment on stories like Deedy.
on July 11,2014 | 12:03PM
blkdrgn wrote:
I kinda wished he would have stated at the last minute that he's not going to Cleveland and burned them again. Would have been funny to watch. Don't get me wrong, I like the Cavs but it would have been hilarious.
on July 11,2014 | 12:43PM
lokela wrote:
It's a small world after all...
on July 11,2014 | 03:38PM
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