Legacy Lies In “The Return”


Lebron James spent seven years playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers before he decided to leave his home town and everything he had built for Miami, Fla.  Looking back, it is plausible how James came to that critical decision which shook this great city to its core.  He had developed into the most revered player in the game in which he had dedicated his life.  He had lived up to all the expectations that had been unfairly put on him and still the title that he believed would validate him, still eluded him.  Those in charge of surrounding him with adequate pieces to help him achieve his legacy,  had failed to do so with multiple chances. He was tired from carrying the burden of a cities hopes and dreams and probably a little scared that seven years in, he had never felt further away. The Cavs organization had failed him even after his broad shoulders carried them much of the way. With every right to be frustrated, a different kind of suspense bared down on him. An objective set in front of him by the greats that came before with the names of Bryant and Jordan.

How can an Individual be asked to weigh the importance of one’s personal pledge to live up to his potential against his responsibility to make a cities dreams come true. The failure of those in charge of facilitating James’ drive towards delivering that reality became clear to him. James saw the inability of his organization to hold up their end and was forced to make that choice between self and community. It was not this community’s fault that James couldn’t realize the pinnacle of his craft in Cleveland just as it wasn’t James’ fault. The tragedy and injustice lies in the feeling of emptiness and failure left behind in the community, when he decided he had to go elsewhere. This city didn’t fail him and he didn’t fail this city. If he wanted to keep the legacy of being the greatest of all time in his sights, he simply could not go on wasting years. He would need to be a champion soon if he were to be the “one” when it is all said and done. However, that reality left this city unfairly struck with a feeling of not being good enough. The best of the best, born and bred here couldn’t end this drought.

James took a path that allowed him to reach basketball’s greatest prize twice. The validation that he was in search of was achieved. After collecting two of the rings James coveted so much, it was time to keep going. If he were to leave this game someday as the best to grace the hardwood, he would have to evaluate his next step. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has written two books about James. Windhorst was a reporter in Cleveland before James’ move to Miami propelled Windhorst into the good graces of ESPN. With his books and his new title as “The Lebron James expert”, Windhorst was asked before this year’s free agency period, what would be next for James? “He is in title accusation mode, he will go wherever he thinks he can win a ring right away.” One can easily see why Windhorst would believe that. I mean, last time James was faced with this decision, that’s what he did. However, there is a great irony in being the author of two books about a man and still wildly misjudging his character.

As James’ 2014 decision became the paramount topic in this country. Those of us left behind in 2010 were conceivably gun shy. We heard rumors and momentum seemed to swing towards the city by the lake. Still, when we looked for hope from those who claimed to be closest to James, Cleveland wasn’t what they spoke of. Stephan A. Smith spoke of James desire to play with fellow free agent Carmelo Anthony and predicted nightly his return to the bright lights of south beach. Chris Brousard reported that Dan Gilbert’s infamous letter had caused irreparable damage. Still no decision came and the rumors got louder and soon there were signs that couldn’t be ignored. Those of us who vowed to not become invested found ourselves entranced in the moment by moment drama. Doubt became hope and hope became belief.

This story is about redemption, personal growth, heart, hope and home. This story is about how the same man that left here four years ago to chase down his legacy decided to come back. The irony is that he didn’t come back because it was the best place to get his next ring. It isn’t the easiest course to running down Jordan. He didn’t choose Cleveland for the reasons that every expert in the country said he would make this decision. He came home for all the right reasons. He came back for his family, his fans and for himself. In a letter that said all the right things, James shows so much character, maturity and heart. There is irony in how his words made those “in the know”, look lost. There is irony in how his return has never made this community feel more proud. Mostly though, there is irony in his quest to come home and represent his community again. He chose not to chase his legacy like he did four years ago and in doing so he has secured his place in sports history forever. By coming home his legacy will be more thrilling and unforgettable than any that came before him.

By: Brad Ward

Follow @CST_BradWard on Twitter

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