2010. The decision. While Miami was in the midst of an elated, fireworks filled, celebration, a different fire was burning in the city of Cleveland. Fueling the flame? None other that the number twenty three jersey they all worshiped just hours before. While it is true Lebron James could have handled the situation more...delicately, leaving his hometown Cavaliers was the right move, the only move to make at the time. Hindsight always being 20/20, its easy to see this now.
It was easy to blame Lebron for "the decision," but did anyone look at it from James' perspective? Was Lebron really turning his back on his hometown team? Did he really abandon them without notice? Or was it just an ugly inevitability that was fortunate to happen sooner rather than later? Through his first seven seasons in the league, Lebron James gave his heart and soul to the Cleveland franchise. He put a team of NBA misfits on his back year in and year out, won sixty games with them, and took them to the NBA Finals in 2007 only to be swept by the Spurs. He was spent, needed some help if he were to stay in Cleveland. Considering Dan Gilbert and the Cavs front office either weren't willing, or able, to provide some players around him, wouldn't you have exercised your right to pursue other options? Would you have rather he signed a max deal with Cleveland, ended up on a terrible team, and gone through season after season, coach after coach, with absolutely nothing to look forward to each year? Basically becoming Carmelo Anthony? The Cavaliers needed Lebron leaving to make the realize what they should have done. Realize that even Lebron needed teammates around him who brought some actual worth to the team. Look at the roster this season compared to 2009, big, BIG difference.
Lebron needed Miami just as much as Miami needed Lebron. James was used to shouldering the load in Cleveland. Guys like Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh made it easier for Lebron be transform from the guy who had to do it by himself, to a pass first Magic Johnson type. Without having to do everything on the offensive end, we saw some of the toughest, most stifling defense out of Lebron throughout all four of their Finals' runs. Going to Miami made the best player in basketball more complete. He was no longer just a scorer, just an offensive threat. He was a guy who could do it all. On top of becoming more complete basketball wise, James started to play with a certain edge to him as well. Where before we saw this happy go lucky kid that faded away in the fourth quarter when the lights were the brightest, we now see a fierce competitor who, when needed, can take over any game at any given moment. Lebron grew in Miami in a way I;m not sure he could have had he stayed in Cleveland.
As we get ready to watch Lebron come home to Cleveland tonight, just remember this reunion was also an inevitability. The King is home and he's looking to bring Sir Larry with him. His jounrey has come full circle and Cleveland, along with himself, are better off for it.