The year is 2044. A now 59 year old Lebron James looks at his long time wife and best friend, Savannah and smiles. Mr. James is a wealthy man. He is part owner of a NBA franchise, as well as an MLB franchise. He has a for life contract with Nike, as well as other prominent endorsers, as royalties keep pouring in. His children are now grown and have children of their own. His grandchildren argue that Grandpa Lebron could never play and dominate in their generation, as he once did in the 2000’s version of the NBA.
Lebron, now walking with a limp due to severe arthritis in both knees, walks through a hallway of his glorious Bath Township mansion. On the way, he opens a door to a dark room. This is a special room. As he opens the door, he reaches for the light switch. Flicking the switch on, Lebron stands and smiles. He usually comes to this room he calls “the most peaceful place on Earth” to get away from everyday stresses. In this room sits not one, not two, but three trophy cases.
The first case holds a like new 2003 Rookie of the Year trophy. Along side the trophy, is Lebron’s first ever game worn jersey. The number 23 still pops off the jersey as he remembers watching Michael Jordan’s #23 jersey on television as a young boy. Looking at the Cavaliers logo brings him many memories. Personal pictures of teammates surround the jersey, as The King travels down memory lane and reflects on how it felt to be just a teenager, surrounded by the highest of expectations.
The second trophy case is one dedicated to another chapter in his life. The Miami Heat chapter was a time of personal growth. Lebron, looking at this case first notices his #6 Miami jersey. On one side of his jersey is a Dwyane Wade jersey, on the other side, Chris Bosh. The shelf underneath holds two NBA MVP trophies as a member of the Heat, as well as two NBA Finals MVP trophies. Next to them, two NBA Championship trophies glisten.
As Lebron turns to the third case, he stops and begins to wonder. How did time go so fast? How was he now an elderly man, barely able to shoot jumpers with his grand children? Did every decision he had ever really made play a role into how he feels deep down today? Shaking off these feelings, Lebron stares down four more NBA Championship trophies. He walks past four more NBA Finals MVP trophies. He closes his eyes as he takes a minute to reflect back on the legacy he left on the sporting world.
Known for his charisma and constant cooperation with the media, James never appears shaken. He still does interviews and answers each and every question respectfully and confidently. He knows enough time has passed where the hard questions are no longer asked. At this point, Lebron has not been the focal point of the National Media in decades. He sometimes misses it.
Into the room enters Lebron III. He is usually full of energy, and loves to play basketball just as his Grandfather did. Grandpa Lebron picks up the little boy and tells him if he works really hard, some day he can have a room like this too, but with his own personal accomplishments to relish in. The boy looks at the three cases. He puts his head on his Grandpa’s shoulder and looks up at him. He then asks in a quiet, innocent tone; “Grandpa, you looked so happy in the pictures in that first case, but how come it has way less stuff in it?” Lebron looks at the boy and smiles. He says, “Sometimes son, a man has to make some pretty hard decisions in life. Some you would go back and never change. Some you regret forever.” An hour has now passed. Lebron, now sitting alone, sits back in his recliner drinking a cold ginger ale. He sits with a blank stare. His head is flooded with so many memories. Some are good. Some are not so good. He thinks about what the little boy had just asked him. What people do not know about Lebron is this is something he has asked himself every day for three decades. The little boy saw a lack of trophies. His grandpa sees much more.
He remembers clearly the way it felt to team up in Miami with his good friends. He can feel the warm South Beach sun on his shoulders just as he did in 2010. He thinks back with no regrets. He then stops and picks up the remote control. He turns on the television, which is now just a hologram in the middle of the room. His hometown team is playing. The Cleveland Cavaliers have a good young squad. A young hungry coach from overseas, a promising young backcourt, and also the new number one pick of the draft. Ironically, he stares at the scene in the middle of the room, and thinks to himself how fun it would be to play on this team.
James has done it all. He has traveled the entire world. He has had every elected U.S. President over for dinner since he was 18. He is considered an all time legend, not only when it comes to his dominance on the basketball hardwood, but also as a walking brand. Considered a genius mogul, Lebron is now a multi-billionaire ranked in the top 50 of Forbes riches list.
What can never be changed though is the decision Lebron made in 2014. He was in his prime and opted out of his contract with then, his second team, the Miami Heat. Never had the sporting world been so enamored with what a player would do next. Where Lebron would go was on the mind of every fan in America. He had an opportunity to go back home to the team that drafted him. This was the team that he once promised a first championship to. This was a city where he met his high school sweet heart, and future wife. This was a city where he first became a father, and a city that cheered him on, no matter what he did. This was a city that truly loved him because no matter how much money, fame, and fortune he had, they saw him as one of them.
Now drifting in and out of sleep, Lebron suddenly jolts awake. His knees flare up as he reaches for his pain medication. The Cavaliers game has now ended. He catches the post game as they do a special segment on the jerseys hanging in the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena. Lebron cannot escape this reality, as this is his hometown. Seven jerseys are hanging. Missing from the arena is the fact that the greatest player to ever put on a Cavaliers uniform is not being represented. Lebron turns his head towards the first trophy case. He sees his #23 Cavaliers jersey sitting alone. An empty feeling comes over his mind, body, and spirit. Lebron realizes he made a mistake. He realizes that empty void cannot be filled with money, fame, family, or anything else in this world. He knows he had a chance to fulfill a promise to himself, and his hometown.
In reality it is still 2014 and the Lebron James decision yet again is the major conversation in all of sports. If you ever read this Lebron, from one Greater Cleveland man to another. We really aren’t that different. We grew up around the same time. We are pretty much 90’s kids. Remember when Will Smith was just the “Fresh Prince?” Remember laughing so hard when Sheneneh would harass Martin and Gina? Remember when Jay-Z came out with Reasonable Doubt? I know you had Nas’ Illmatic bumpin’ in your headphones on an old Sony Walkman. We both wear shoes. We both eat when we are hungry. We sleep when we are tired. I think I have given enough examples to prove that you should at least consider listening to me.
In thirty years, I will be looking back at life with happiness and regrets too. The difference is that you had a chance as a young man to make a true, unequivocal mark on the city of Cleveland forever, and I did not. Other than that, we are no different.
Don’t blow this Lebron. Come home.
PS: Lebron, please do not misconstrue this as begging. I loved the Cavs way before I ever heard of you, and I still love them as constructed today. Who better to teach the mega talented Andrew Wiggins to be a professional than the selfless Lebron James? Remember, it was really only a couple of drunk, overly aggressive nobodies who burned your jersey. News outlets showed that scene thousands of times, as well as some drunk girl at a bar sobbing over your decision. You, being from here, know we as a society are not the pathetic, whiny, begging losers the media has portrayed us to be. It’s time to represent your home. It’s time to truly rep where you came from. This shouldn’t be taken as any sort of direct shot towards you. Think of this more as, the best advice a Cleveland kid at heart can give to another Cleveland kid at heart.
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