LeBron: Return of the King

Corey Winchel, IV Leader Columnist

“I’m coming home.” Those three words rocked the sports world this summer as LeBron James announced through an interview with Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated that he was returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After reading those words, the same fans that four years ago burnt jerseys in the streets and tore down billboards when James decided to, “take his talents to South Beach,”, immediately put
aside the feelings of hurt, disrespect, abandonment and disloyalty they felt and instead embraced his return with a coronation fit for a King.
While I have no vested interest in the Cleveland Cavaliers, I too felt their hurt when LeBron made “The Decision” four years ago to go play for the Miami Heat. It seemed at the time like a slap in the face to the town that raised him and supported him through his career. As sports fans we love the underdog story. Cleveland hasn’t had a professional championship to its name since the 1964 NFL Champion Cleveland Browns.

To put that in perspective that is before the first Super Bowl was even played! It was apparent then that LeBron and the Cavaliers would be their best shot of bringing a championship to their fans. When he made the decision to leave, it crushed their dreams. The future of a Cleveland sports fan looked hopeless.

I too could feel that hurt, the pain I felt four years ago was the pain of a fan who loves sports for the most intimate reason; the emotions that they create. The feelings that you get watching the Bears play on Sunday, watching the Cubs and thinking to ourselves “maybe next year,” the emotions that come with that investment MEAN something to us. We give these teams our time, our money, our hearts and our deepest desire is to see them succeed. While to somebody on the outside the Cleveland fan’s accepting LeBron back with open arms might seem hypocritical or wrong, in reality it is because of the hope that he brings to the fans and to the city that they react that way.

A large part of the reaction also has to be credited with the way that LeBron conducted the announcement. The Sports Illustrated piece came off sincere, heartfelt, and genuine, while four years ago the ESPN special made him look like a villain. Reading that piece you could see the maturity; you could feel the hope, the restored dreams of an entire city. This situation is just a microcosm of what sports are really about. You don’t have to be a hometown fan or die hard follower to share in the joy of the city of Cleveland. When I read those words I felt their hope, their tangible optimism, and I too, the same sports fan who cursed LeBron four years ago, welcomed “The Return of The King.”