Friday, July 11, 2014

LeBron James' "Decision" to Return Home

I'm a LeBron James fan.

And today's "Decision," is the real reason I'm a LeBron fan. Today, LeBron James announced his return to Northeast Ohio. He's leaving South Beach to return to the gritty, blue-collar city of Cleveland, a city that hasn't won a professional sports championship in 50 years.

The Cleveland Browns won the 1964 AFL Championship (before the Super Bowl existed).
The Cleveland Indians won the 1948 World Series.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have not won a basketball championship...yet.

Cleveland has the second largest championship drought for any city that has at least two major sports franchises. The only team with a longer drought is San Diego. (Which makes Tony Gwynn's legacy even more significant. You can read my article on Gwynn here.)

Legends are judged by individual accomplishments and the ability to lead their teams to championships. One without the other isn't enough.

It's what makes Lionel Messi's World Cup Final game on Sunday so important. His individual statistics will guarantee him a spot in the conversation. But if he never wins a World Cup, he can't be considered the greatest of all time.

James went to Miami to win championships. In his 4 years in Miami, LeBron won 4 Eastern Conference Championships, 2 NBA Championships, and 2 Most Valuable Player Awards.

But James' return to Cleveland doesn't merely signal a change in location. It signals a change in him as a man. And it's why James is becoming the kind of man I want my kids to emulate.

Before our eyes, we're watching the evolution of LeBron James.

His announcement was far different this time. Rather than hosting an hour-long television event to announce his move to Cleveland like he did 4 years ago, LeBron's decision was without fanfare (if it's possible to ignore the 24-hour "Breaking News" ticker on ESPN).

You can read his well-thought-out essay on his return to Cleveland here. It's well worth the read!

In the essay, LeBron is confessional. He admits if he had it to do over again, he would have left Cleveland differently. And this time around, he seems to have learned his lesson.

I don't expect to hear LeBron guaranteeing 8 rings like last time. He now knows how to win a championship and how naive it is to guarantee multiple championships. He sees the folly of his ways.

This decision to return to Cleveland isn't about cementing his legacy as the greatest of all-time. His calling is bigger than that.

And that's the exact language he used: "calling." In his essay, he said,

"But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, 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."

LeBron is a man growing up before our eyes. This time around he's married with a third child on the way. He's choosing to forgive Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavaliers, for his spiteful letter after LeBron's departure to Miami. His return home to Ohio is about more than basketball. It's about giving hope to a region of Ohio that raised him. 

This time around, it's not about winning multiple championships for LeBron and his legacy. It's about winning a championship LeBron and his city.

LeBron has always had his haters. The "Greats" always do. 

But it's hard to hate on this "Decision."

No comments: