Commentary: Could LeBron Return to Cleveland?

The Miami Heat forward faces free agency in the 2014 offseason.

Posted: 12/04/2013 12:49 PM EST
Commentary: Could Lebron Return to Cleveland

The city remains obsessed with the man, a fact not lost on anybody who watched LeBron James come back to Cleveland the day before Thanksgiving or who went to his game at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Q is where LeBron cemented his global reputation; The Q is where he made the Cleveland Cavaliers relevant; The Q is where hearing LeBron’s name evokes an emotional response.

For the past three seasons, the noise inside The Q has been all boos. The city LeBron deserted for South Beach held a grudge. People here wondered how could any athlete they fawned over reject their love for the glitz and glam of Miami. Northeast Ohioans went into a deep funk when LeBron gave them an answer.

Well, his answer doesn’t matter much these days. The Cavaliers are a wreck of a franchise, and LeBron is moving toward NBA title No. 3 and to the opportunity to void his contract and play elsewhere.

Could that elsewhere be Cleveland?

It is the thought of his return that has softened the city’s heart. The animosity that accompanied his first visits to the city in a Heat uniform has given way to the recognition that LeBron is the best damn player on the planet. To show him love might be enough to woo him back, some hoops fans in Cleveland think.

Their speculation about what LeBron James will do next season has dominated the radio talk shows in Cleveland since he and the Heat came to and then left town last week. (Better ‘Bron than the Browns, right?) He faced questions about his future from the local media, which seem as preoccupied with what he will do as what Cavs fans do.

One thing people should have learned from LeBron’s first foray into free agency is that no man knows what he will do. He played coy about his thinking when he signed with the Heat; he’s given no hints about whether he will stay in Miami, go to Los Angeles or go somewhere else next season.

He can’t escape the questions about his future. Everyone in Cleveland wants to know: yea or nay, LeBron.

In some ways, the uncertainty about what his next decision will be has forced Cleveland, a city so many athletes have rejected, to look inward and ask itself: What can we offer an athlete like LeBron?

The answer is simple: undying love.

So kick us around a bit … go ahead, LeBron, we don’t mind. Just show us you want to return, man. That’s all we want from you: your return. We’ll shower you again with our love.

Fans showed LeBron some of their undying love last Wednesday. They watched him lead Miami to an almost effortless victory over their Cavaliers, but the loss didn’t bother fans enough to shower boos on ‘Bron.

They dare not do that, because the risks are too great. They can never allow LeBron to think they don’t love him, even as they seethe inside over his ultimate act of betrayal: a public divorce.

Yet for people who believe in tooth fairies, crazy divorces can have happy endings. For nonbelievers, they just move on; they don’t stress about what “decision” LeBron James will make.

For if he doesn’t know and he tells people he doesn’t know how can anyone in Cleveland think its fans can show him more love than Miamians do? Can this luckless city and its people tolerate another ended love?

Do they have a choice?

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(Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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