Going home

In 2010, the world’s best basketball player turned me off from rooting for him or even watching him. I hated him. He left his hometown.

I can’t imagine someone doing that to Portland. Especially someone who grew up around here and called it their home. That kind of connection goes beyond basketball; everyone has a home. When you grow up somewhere, you have a connection with that place that can only be understood by you.

When LeBron decided to leave in a fashion that was no less than painful to the entire city he called home, he made me think that connection meant nothing to him. He gave the city of Cleveland no respect. And this isn’t Los Angeles, or even New York. This was Cleveland, the city that is the butt of every sports joke because they can’t win anything. “At least we’re not Detroit,” was all that Cleveland had after LeBron left. If that slogan doesn’t explain the city, I don’t know what does.

That was four years ago. Four years in which LeBron saw himself go to four NBA finals, winning two championship rings. This summer, LeBron opted out of his contract and became an unrestricted free agent. Again, everyone wondered where he would end up. Except for me.

I knew he would resign with the Heat. I had no doubt. He just wanted the money, he wanted to be the highest paid player on his team, and he wanted to play with his friends Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

But then LeBron surprised me again. He left his Heat teammates and returned to Cleveland.

I read every article, watched every television broadcast and immersed myself in the story that this was, the story of a man who came into the NBA straight out of high school, made a giant mistake in the form of 2010’s “The Decision,” and then came back home.

If LeBron can give the Cavaliers a title, it will be one of the best sports stories of our lifetime. That city hasn’t had any luck with sports in a long time, and the fact that LeBron realized it was time for him to return home could be the start of change in the atmosphere in Cleveland.

That’s why I can root for LeBron again. The NBA’s best player showed us all that he’s matured immensely in his time with the Heat, and even shown why it might have been necessary for him to be able to take the next step in his career. He went to Miami to win championships, and he’s going home to give the city and people who raised him what they deserve: a championship.

If you haven’t read the article LeBron wrote for Sports Illustrated about why he decided to go back to Cleveland, you really should. He does a great job explaining himself. A much better job than he did in 2010, when he took his talents to South Beach. Now the real test begins: Can Cleveland do what they couldn’t in the first seven years that LeBron was there? If so, it’ll be the most impressive part of LeBron’s resume.