By choosing to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James returns to the franchise he pretty much destroyed as a basketball team the moment he made his previous decision, four years ago. The same ripple effect won’t be hurting the Miami Heat as bad as it did the Cavs, but there’s no doubt his choice to make a return to his first team hurt them badly.
But all that doesn’t matter in Cleveland. After four seasons of failing to make the playoffs, they have their ‘lost son’ back. A player who saw his jerseys being burned by fans by two years later hugged by court invaders, begging him to comeback. Signed by an owner who did everything he could to publicly discredit LeBron James, but now welcomes him back with open arms. The NBA isn’t about loyalty, it’s about everything else.
Four years in Miami are gone. The Heat aren’t falling apart. They’re keeping Chris Bosh and probably Dwyane Wade, and they’ll have come cap space for more signings. However, Miami before James arrived, in the years between winning the title in 2006 and their four consecutive finals in 2011-2014, weren’t much more than a team that makes the playoff and falls away very quickly. The ground of the Eastern conference is shaking, as the landscape is changing between our very eyes.
James will take a maximum contract, or maybe slightly less if the cap room is an issue, which means just about $88 million over the next four seasons. From what James wrote on SI, it has a lot to do with his relationship with the Northeast or Ohio specifically. Maybe he feels like he owes something to the fans and the team. No one is calling him a traitor except some folks in Miami. On a national level, it seems this has only done LeBron James a world of good.
He joins a team with a new head coach, David Blatt, suddenly one of the luckiest people alive. It also makes him immediately a spotlight figure, because with James, Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggings and an effort to bring in Kevin Love (which might cost them Wiggins), the Cavs are immediately contenders for the NBA titles. James is that good, even if he couldn’t carry a team on his back against the San Antonio Spurs.
LeBron James took the Cavs to the NBA finals in 2007. He won two regular season MVP awards with them, and was beaten in the conference finals in 2009 against the Orlando Magic. He is a different player. Some say better, but mostly more mature, with a much better cast & crew around him to finish the job. Tasting glory with the Miami Heat is one thing, but becoming a champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers will probably mean a lot more.