The return of LeBron James: What does it mean?


Jul 11

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So LeBron James is returning to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s been long speculated, though few believed it would occur this soon. Though few saw Dwyane Wade’s knees giving out so quickly, as well.

So now the questions come fast:

What will Carmelo Anthony do? Take an offer from the Bulls to start the Greatest Central Division Rivalry of all time between James and Anthony, the latter with the Bulls? Return to New York and give the Bulls a one-year window while James adjusts to his new team and Anthony waits for a 2015 Phil Jackson free agency miracle?

Can the Cavs acquire Kevin Love to join James? James deftly left out the name of No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins in his essay in Sports Illustrated Friday about returning to Cleveland. The notion is the Timberwolves could not/would not refuse the No. 1 pick in trade for Love, who can leave unrestricted next summer. Love, a West Coast kid who has played his pro career in Minneapolis and thus has not seen the sun, might not view Cleveland as the end of the rainbow. But he could opt in, thus giving the Cavs two years, maybe win a title and then go hang out in Los Angeles.

Can the Cavs be beaten? Yes, but it won’t be easy. Though the Cavaliers missed the playoffs yet again last season, their roster is far better than Miami’s. James makes all the difference in such things. The Cavs have an All-Star guard—and reigning All-Star game MVP—in Kyrie Irving, size with Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson and a potential Sixth Man of the Year with Dion Waiters. And your veteran Ray Allens of the world will begin hooking on for minimum deals. Last year’s top pick, Anthony Bennett, can get another chance. And even if the Cavs keep the high flying Wiggins, along with James you may not see another team in the ESPN highlights all next winter.

If Anthony were to sign with the Bulls—depending on how many players they’d have to move to create salary space—the Bulls obviously would be a contender with the Cavaliers. Even without Anthony, the Bulls are in position to create a San Antonio Spurs-like model with depth assuming the return to good health of Derrick Rose. After all, teams like the Spurs and Mavericks with size and depth beat the Heat twice in the Finals in four seasons and barely missed a third time. Suddenly, the Central Division is the strength of the NBA with the return of Rose, LeBron’s Cavs and what has been a strong Pacers team. Perhaps Stan Van Gundy didn’t consider all this taking on the Pistons coach and general manager job.

Will this save LeBron’s name? Not that it needs saving as James is basically the undisputed basketball king of the NBA (hopefully, Cleveland will dispense with that awful Christ-like mural opposite the arena this time). But the going home story will resonate well with Americans. American love apologies and love to forgive. A great American fiction is the return home story to save the family and the farm. James has proven a worthy champion and a first class person. There almost always are periods of criticism for youthful indiscretions and lapses of good taste. James has had to apologize for that silly announcement show in 2010, which he did do once again with, in effect, with his announcement in Sports Illustrated. And then there was the rally with the title declarations. It was kids’ stuff and harmless, though the combined jealousy and resentment toward James lingered.

It should have dissipated now. James will not only be welcomed back to Cleveland in grand style, but likely will be greeted more warmly as he travels the NBA landscape. He’ll have gone home to not only try to save the family farm in Cleveland, but to do so without any such assurance like it seemed in Miami. This is no ready made dynasty like in Miami. No more mercenary; more someone who deserves mercy. James will join young players and a coach who never has coached in the NBA. It’s a great day for James, who always has kept a home in nearby Akron and spent summers there. A return figured to be inevitable, though perhaps not as celebrated as it is now.

But given the cultural significance as well, here are the top 10 impacts of LeBron James’ return to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers:

  1. Indiana Pacers Central Division dynasty over.
  2. Can unfollow South Florida media on Twitter.
  3. People will learn again how to spell pierogi.
  4. United Airlines, which announced this year it was dropping Cleveland as hub, moves all operations there from Chicago.
  5. LeBron James inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in new category of Sideline Dancing.
  6. George Bush considering move of presidential library to Akron.
  7. Pat Riley seen hirise shopping in Cleveland. Remaining Heat personnel book hotel rooms in Secaucus.
  8. Carmelo Anthony explaining to wife the reality show possibilities in Cleveland.
  9. Won’t have to worry about meeting Joakim Noah on his vacation.
  10. You get a small trophy for second place in the Central.

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