LeBron James runs out for the starting lineup during the Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals, probably the last in a long time for the Cavs after James joined the Los Angeles Lakers on a four year $154 million contract. (Nick Koza/Photo)
The weather was hot and humid on the first day of July 2018 and some 2,300 miles away where the Pacific ocean breeze made for yet another beautiful Southern California day, Akron, Ohio native and Cleveland Cavalier cornerstone LeBron James said goodbye for the final time to his home team.
There was little pomp and circumstance, no over the top press conference, just a simple one-page press release by James agency Klutch Sports, that he would be signing a contract to play for the storied Los Angeles Lakers for the next four years.
James leaving Cleveland after four memorable years that included bringing Northeast Ohio it’s first championship in half a century did not draw jersey burning’s nor protest of anger from Cavalier fans.
It did not bring about the ire of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who the following day released a statement that read:
“We will always remember the evening of June 19, 2016 as the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, ended the 52-year drought delivering the long elusive championship that many thought they would never see... A championship that united generations of Clevelanders, both living and passed.
Virtually anyone with roots in Northeast Ohio paused and felt the memories of the past and the utter joy that the burden of the so-called ‘curse’ was finally a thing of the past. Cleveland, Ohio was the home of a championship team for the first time since 1964. Words do not express the meaning and the feeling this accomplishment brought to the people of Northeast Ohio.
None of this would have happened if LeBron James did not agree to come back home and lead the Cavaliers to the promised land. The entire Cavaliers franchise thanks LeBron for that precious moment and for all of the excitement he delivered as he led our team to four straight NBA Finals appearances.
LeBron is a family man, first. We wish his kids, his wife Savannah, his mother Gloria, and LeBron himself nothing but the best in the years and decades ahead. LeBron’s connection to Akron, Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio will most certainly endure as his commitment to the region and his support of many important causes has been impactful to so many kids and families.
LeBron, you came home and delivered the ultimate goal. Nothing but appreciation and gratitude for everything you put into every moment you spent in a Cavaliers uniform. We look forward to the retirement of the famous #23 Cavs jersey one day down the line...”
On an Instagram post James simply stated: “Thank you Northeast Ohio for an incredible four seasons. This will always be my home.”
Thus after 11 seasons with the team that drafted him into the NBA with the top overall selection, James and the Cavaliers are at ease with being separated for the final time.
In the end it turned out that James was always predestined to leave the Cavaliers after returning with his profound letter on Sports Illustrated declaring ‘I’m Coming Home.’
The feel good story of local hero, returning to the title starved hometown after winning two championships with the Miami Heat, was met with a series of acrimonious short term deals that never felt like a till death do us part marriage.
It was more of a date with the high school sweetheart for as long as she does what I want her to do and for as long as things transpire the way I want.
Gilbert did his part by opening up his check book to write any amount on it that would satisfy James desires, but that all ended when against James’ wishes he traded away star guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics, after Irving had demanded to be separated from James.
It did not even matter that the Lakers which had fallen on hard times and doesn’t resemble a shadow of the glorious franchise during modern times with five years of empty playoff finishes.
It did not even matter that the Lakers could not convince one of their hometown free agents Paul George to come to Los Angeles to join James.
All that mattered in the end was that James, who has championed social justice issues akin to the progressive liberal state of California had promised that he would do his part to make sure that the African American community would be alright following the shocking election of Donald Trump.
For perhaps the first time in his life at 33, James is visioning his impact beyond winning MVPs, NBA titles, shattering statistical categories of legendary greats and chasing Michael Jordan.
The standard is still golden in Laker Nation, but it is also realistic. The Lakers don’t have fans they have a millionaire fraternity sitting courtside.
Winning entertainment with a mega star like LeBron stirring the drink is a natural mix in Los Angeles with the Lakers.
Even if the Lakers don’t get another mega star to join James, he is still the greatest player in the modern history of the game and by joining a young core that won 35 games without him they will be in the playoffs where now almost anything can happen.
This will undoubtedly be James’ last chapter, one where his soon to be high school teenage son will play with and against the best amateur competition in the nation at schools where sons of the rich and famous are as common as Roscoe’s Chicken ‘N Waffles.
There was once another 6’8 superstar that came to Los Angeles from Lansing, Michigan and following a five NBA title run is among the most respected businessmen in America.
LeBron James knows who Magic Johnson is. He knows the story and now it is time for him to add the footnotes to his own.