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The PJ Tatler

Conflicted About LeBron’s Return to Cleveland

The way he departed was lousy. His return, classy and mature.

by
Paula Bolyard

Bio

July 11, 2014 - 5:19 pm
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Cleveland_Tough

In the end, “The Next Decision” was subdued, an anti-event. Rather than holding court at another ESPN media circus, James released an essay to Sports Illustrated that expressed his reasons for deciding to return to Cleveland. After reading it, I’m inclined to be a little more sympathetic to his decision to leave and a bit more enthusiastic about his return.

In the essay, James explains,

Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating. If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man.

First, I appreciate LeBron acknowledging that he flubbed his departure from the Cavs and (I’m assuming) saying that he wishes he would have rolled out the announcement differently. When James was in high school he sometimes talked about going to college instead of straight to the NBA — league rules allowed high school players to jump straight to the NBA in 2003 when James was drafted. The pressure (and the money waved at him) to go straight to the draft was surely overwhelming for the high school kid from the Akron projects, and so he never really left home. He moved to the Akron suburbs, a 15-minute drive from where he grew up, hanging out with the same kids he played basketball with in high school. It’s hard to begrudge a young man — even one who is wealthy beyond what most people can even imagine — the opportunity to make a name for himself away from his hometown.

LeBron also reminded us in his essay about his ongoing commitment to philanthropy in Akron, even after he left for Miami. The LeBron James Family Foundation has done a lot of good for the area and he regularly returns to participate in events for his foundation and on behalf of his former high school (a private Catholic school near downtown Akron), spending $1 million on a new gym recently. Though he took his talents to Miami, it seems that his heart remained in Akron in many ways.

James said in his essay that he always believed he’d return to Cleveland to finish his career. “After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought,” James said. “But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland.”

For the most part, James has been an excellent role model, somewhat of an anomaly in the thuggish culture of the NBA. He’s been with the same girl (now his wife and the mother of his children) since high school and has kept the same close circle of friends. He loves his mother and except for his bad habit of wearing a New York Yankees hat to Cleveland Indians games (an unpardonable sin in my book), he’s been a model citizen.

He acknowledged that the reaction of Cleveland fans and Gilbert’s letter were difficult for his wife and mother (who still lives in Akron) and they factored into his decision, but in the end LeBron said, “You think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react?” He said he’s met with Dan Gilbert “face-to-face, man-to-man” and they’ve talked things out. “Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?”

He said his “calling” in Northeast Ohio goes beyond basketball. “I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously.” He said he wants kids in the area to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. “Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get,” adding that “in Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”

LeBron James demonstrated today that he never really left Ohio. He still remembers what it’s like to be a poor inner kid dreaming about champion teams in Cleveland and imagining a future outside of the hood. Obviously, LeBron is just a man and basketball is just a game. But his return will boost the Cleveland economy and bring back some of the excitement that’s been missing on the Cleveland sports scene since he left. LeBron has been a thrill to watch on the court since he was in high school and even when I hated him for leaving, I couldn’t resist copping a peek at his amazing dunk shot anytime I caught a Miami Heat game while channel surfing.

I still hate that he left Cleveland for the quick bling of a big-market championship team in Miami. But now that he’s gotten that out of his system, perhaps a more mature LeBron is ready to do what no other Cavaliers player in history has done: lead the battle-hardened city of Cleveland to a basketball championship. I’ve been around this town long enough that I don’t get my hopes up about our sports teams anymore. But (lacking any other feasible options) I’m at least willing to keep an open mind about LeBron and see if he’s willing to put his talent where his mouth is.

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In addition to writing for PJ Tatler and PJ Lifestyle, Paula also writes for Ohio Conservative Review, and RedState. She is co-author of a new Ebook called, Homeschooling: Fighting for My Children’s Future. She is a member of the Wayne County Executive Committee. Paula describes herself as a Christian first, conservative second, and Republican third.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (25)
All Comments   (25)
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OK, I'll admit that I'm dense. Will somebody please explain to me in simple English just why I should care what LeBron Wozzname does or where he goes?

Ben Hartley
(I write it, I sign it)
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can't for the life of me understand the fuss that's made over a gang of oafs playing a child's game. Billion$ are spent on it every year; fist fights, riots and murders are provoked by disagreements over its arbitrary and incomprehensible rules; colleges neglect their academic programs while lavishing their wealth on facilities in which illiterate lunk-heads grind one another's faces into the mud.
Who give's a crusty rat's a** what LeBron does, where he goes or anything else about him?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sadly, the fact that this dude who is getting $44 million over a few years is major news in the US by moving. Insane "fans" go as far as stalking his house. It was covered in the first 10 minutes on the national news broadcast. This country sure has gone down the toilet.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think a big factor in the move from South Beach is the wife not wanting much Latin-infused booty around (there was an incident where one such morsel tweeted Labron on the birth of his 2nd son) and the fear on LBJs part of not getting cleaned out in divorce.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
"For the most part, James has been an excellent role model, somewhat of an anomaly in the thuggish culture of the NBA."

Thuggish? As compared to the culture of other professional sports - especially hockey? I've noticed that writers - newspapers, TV and Internet - have become too easy with that word. often using it as a synonym for black. I guess they had to think of something now that they can no longer use the "N" word. Compared to hockey, where bloody fistfights are the rule, not the exception? Oh course, hockey is considered a "white" sport, as opposed to basketball, which is considered an "urban" sport.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
The short answer to your question is: "thuggish" refers to crimes committed outside the arena, not fistfights on the court or ice. In that regard, the NHL isn't even close to the NBA, though admittedly the NFL has them beat. You can search the internet for "NBA felonies" and "NHL felonies" and then you'll understand. If you don't have the time to look, here's a quick link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_professional_sportspeople_convicted_of_crimes

So in this case, playing the race card puts you on thin ice.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
"playing the race card puts you on thin ice."

Ouch!

Well played!
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
To be frank, Lebron's letter made me think, this is the way a leader should act. I have no doubt that Lebron will bring a championship to Cleveland. Being a Laker fan from LA all my life, I can only wish we had a young man like that leading our team again. Thanks Magic :)
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
White whine.

Of all the things in the world to feel "conflicted" about, this ain't on my list.

19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good column, Paula!

As a long time Lakers fan (suffering increasingly over the past decade!) I've watched LbJ from afar. Big, strong, smart, well-adjusted for a superstar - but I could never find the handle that let me like him. As a player it would seem he should be able to deliver just enough more to differentiate him from the merely excellent, but I've never seen it. Our own (aging) Kobe has his pluses and minuses too, as a player and as a star and as a human being. Just hard to get into the NBA competition the way it used to be, maybe we just expect too much anymore. Well, let's see how LbJ III does in Cleveland this time around. Maybe he should just keep on being himself, and let the fans fall where they may.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I used to be a big professional sports fan. Not anymore.

And at least part of the reason is look at the commotion this event has caused, as if Lebron James' move "back home" is some monumental worldly event.

Perhaps it's an escapism in a world gone mad. But part of the madness is the fact we've selected arrogant, ignorant men like Lebron James as 'very special', when in reality he puts a round ball through a round hoop better than anyone else and makes a king's ransom in doing so.

Talk about having our priorities out of whack?

Bread and circuses...
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Tex, read the letter and call back in about 3 years. This guy is special. This is the kind of leader America is looking for, loyal, tough, forgiving, and industrious.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
For what it's worth, I've known a couple of pro athletes and they work incredibly hard. Harder than almost anyone I know. I'm not necessarily saying that their salaries are commensurate with what they do, but it's not like a player can roll out of the bed every morning and hit 100 home runs in MLB or outmaneuver LeBron in the NBA without an incredible amount of practice and conditioning. Personal sacrifices too, especially for their families. Obviously, they think the fame and enormous salaries are worth it.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
No Cleveland team has won a championship in half a decade, not since the 1964 Browns won a (pre-Super Bowl) NFL title.

Uhh, shouldn't that be half a century, not half a decade?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, the "math molecule" in my brain (never been good at math), kinda went haywire on that one too!!
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was born without that "math molecule" -- thanks for pointing it out. :) Fixed.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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