LeBron James’ legacy is restored in return to Cleveland

By Ian Sacks,

By returning home to Ohio, LeBron James’ legacy is restored to good graces. Four years after tarnishing what looked like a career that could lead to the title of “The Best Ever” by publicizing his signing with the Miami Heat in a one-hour long primetime television special, James has returned to place where he left his heart: Cleveland and the surrounding area in Northeast Ohio.

In an essay on Sports Illustrated, James struck a different chord this time around than he did in 2010.

Four years ago, his decision to go to Miami resulted in bitterness from everyone in Cleveland and most people around the world. However, a more mature James in 2014 showed his true personality and heart by quietly and respectfully stepping away from the Heat and joining the Cavaliers.

The humility that James demonstrated in the way he announced his return to Cleveland will win fans over. This time around (as compared to 2010), he did everything differently. Instead of drawing attention to himself by hosting a one-hour television special and then counting on winning eight championships, he has taken the quite road in which he promises hard work in pursuit of ending the city of Cleveland’s 50 year championship drought.

This move practically corrects James’ boisterous announcement of four years ago. When people look back in time, they will remember that he unceremoniously took a four year hiatus from Cleveland and then righted the ship by returning home.

In 2010, the most important thing to him was capturing a championship. After reaching the NBA Finals once and posting the best record in the league in successive years only to come away empty-handed, he must have questioned whether he would ever hoist a Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Without seeing Cleveland make any major roster maneuvers to provide him with a better supporting cast, the move to South Beach made sense, even if it was unpopular and detestable to most.

After reaching the Finals every year with the Heat and actually capturing two rings, James’ 2014 decision focused more on doing the right thing than on finding the best way to remove himself from the list of “the best players never to win a championship.”

“I’m not promising a championship,” James wrote. “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. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010.”

This stint with Cleveland will be different for James. When he got drafted in 2003, the team was terrible, winning just 17 games the previous year. Two years later, the Cavs were above the .500 mark. In four of the next five seasons, they won 50 games, according to Basketball-Reference. But the problem was that James did not have many pieces around him to defeat the elite teams in the NBA.

This time around, James joins the Cavaliers in a much better situation. In 2014, the team went 33-49 (almost double the amount of wins they had the year before he joined them the first time). They have had three of the last four overall No. 1 picks in the NBA Draft, including Kyrie Irving, a two-time All-Star who won the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year award.

In addition to the young talent that the Cavaliers have, they have made moves so far this offseason that demonstrate that they are serious about providing James with a strong supporting cast. They unloaded the contracts of several players, including Jarrett Jack’s. Jack is scheduled to make $6.3 million in each of the next three seasons.

Rumors surround the Cavs about being in the mix for Kevin Love, who will likely by traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves before the end of next season. In addition to looking at Love, Cleveland has also been in contact with free agents Ray Allen and Mike Miller, both of who played with James in Miami.

With the Cavaliers demonstrating that they will do right by James this time around, he will only cement his legacy as one of the best ever by taking his hometown team to the top of the NBA.

image courtesy of Elder Ordonez/INFphoto.com

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