Kareem Abdul-Jabbar weighs in on LeBron James' decision to return home

By Brian McMahon,
NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not getting caught up in the hype of LeBron James returning to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers

The sporting world exploded yesterday when LeBron James released a letter saying that he would be returning home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. ESPN had round the clock coverage on The Decision: Part II, as it is being called, and just about everyone with access to the internet voiced their opinion on the matter.

The response from the public to the news in LeBron's letter, published by Sports Illustrated, has been overwhelmingly positive, as most people see it as a sign of LeBron's maturation during his four years spent in Miami.

ESPN television and radio host, Mike Greenberg, was one of the many people who took to Twitter to show support for LeBron, and his decision to return to the team that drafted him back in 2003.

However easy it may be to get caught up in the great story of Cleveland's prodigal son returning home, there are still those who are not as impressed with King James. NBA Hall of Famer and 6-time NBA champion, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is among those who have pointed out how it is self-serving for LeBron to return to Cleveland.

In an article Abdul-Jabbar had published on Time, entitled "Why LeBron Can't Go Home Again," he acknowledges the courage it took for LeBron to return to the city that had seemingly turned their back on him, but also mentions how he may have mistakenly romanticized his homecoming.

Abdul-Jabbar is right; it is self-serving for LeBron to return home to Cleveland. The Cavaliers are better situated than the Heat to have success in the future, he gets to raise his children in the state he wanted to, and most importantly, he is now seen as the patron saint of Cleveland, and will literally have monuments built in his image. That being said, it was self-serving for Abdul-Jabbar to write the article pointing out LeBron's past mistakes. Abdul-Jabbar correctly mentions how LeBron's departure from Cleveland four years ago was mishandled, treating it as "the Exodus from Egypt," which left Cleveland fans offended.

Abdul-Jabbar then brings up the manner in which he, himself, left the Milwaukee Bucks in 1975, who, like the Cavaliers in 2010, were not good enough to compete for championships despite having the best player in the league. Abdul-Jabbar says how he had a meeting with the team owner to discuss what was best for both parties, and how the conversation ended with a handshake. It is as if Abdul-Jabbar is saying, "Hey LeBron, I only needed to make one decision, and I handled it better than you did."

I do not believe Abdul-Jabbar's main goal while writing the article was to discredit LeBron's character, or greatness, as a player, but he certainly points to it. It is considered a fact in basketball circles that LeBron is the best player in the world, but Abdul-Jabbar refers to LeBron as "one of the best players in the world" in the article. Not an insult, but Abdul-Jabbar is holding back on giving LeBron full credit for what he can do on a basketball court.

While most people approved of the manner in which LeBron announced his decision to return to Cleveland, Abdul-Jabbar is again unimpressed. Abdul-Jabbar thought LeBron's decision should have "been announced as a fait accompli, instead of the press and fans waiting in anticipation for the word to come down from the mountain inscribed on tablets."

But that is unfair of Abdul-Jabbar. LeBron has no control over what fans and the press are anticipating. I am not sure how LeBron could have handled things better actually. He took the time to weigh his options, and when he felt the time was right, he wrote out all his thoughts so he could state everything that went into his decision.

While I do feel Abdul-Jabbar's judgement of LeBron is a bit harsh, he does bring up some good points. Abdul-Jabbar quoted a passage from Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again, which accurately sums up LeBron's return to Cleveland, and its residents. Cleveland will never be the same for LeBron as when he left four years ago; whether he has realized that or not, nobody knows. As Abdul-Jabbar says, Cleveland fans are joyful now, but they are wiser than they were four years ago. LeBron will have to work even harder to win them over, because, as Abdul-Jabbar put it, they will have to be convinced of his sincerity.

Image of James courtesy of Elder Ordonez/INFphoto.com
Image of Abdul-Jabbar courtesy of Walter McBride/INFphoto.com



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