“The King” has grown up, and that’s about all the people of Northeast Ohio need to now know.
Oh, maybe they need to know one more thing: He’s coming home.
In an announcement through Sports Illustrated, LeBron James made that official Friday afternoon. He did so in a way unlike how he announced he was leaving Cleveland for South Beach four years ago.
An older, wiser LeBron James has fixed what surely has been one of the rare missteps he’s made in his life. For how does a man walk away from someone, however imperfect the someone might have been, who loves him madly?
He can’t do so without a great deal of regrets, and LeBron James had more than a few.
“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” he said in his SI announcement. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
Home often calls a man back. What he was – and often what he’ll always be – is constructed around the experiences he’s faced at home, in front of relatives and neighbors and strangers – high- and low-profile people, people who might only have cared about a man’s celebrity, not about his happiness.
LeBron might have found happiness elusive, just as fame can be elusive. The window of fame is narrow, aside from what the history books might keep fresh. Yet even the greats, the Bill Russells, the Kareem Abdul-Jabbars or the Oscar Robertsons, soon enough fade into those pages, their exploits forgotten.
In a half-century, LeBron James might not be the iconic figure he is today. He might have his wealth, of course; he will have his titles. But the fame and his reputation as the best of his era might not have the glow it does now.
Yet what he will have to cling to is that people in Northeast Ohio, his home, have forgiven him, that, at 29, he should have done something four years ago that he did not do: stay at home.
The prodigal son does return, and when he does, he returns as a man much different than the petulant, self-absorbed boy who had left. He’s sorted out what mattered most, and he’s set about keeping those things in perspective.
It might be asking too much to expect LeBron to bring the Cleveland Cavaliers a championship in his first season back in Quicken Loans Arena. Championships are built with thoughtful acquisitions, experience and luck, and the Cavaliers can’t count on this trifecta to reflect their circumstances right away.
Still, they and their fans have hope, and hope is never a bad thing. They also have the best basketball player the world as ever seen, and that alone will erase any memories of “The Decision.”
So no one should talk about the past; no one should mention grudges and ill will and extraordinary expectations – not in the face of a moment that, a few years ago, no one in Cleveland or elsewhere thought possible.
For LeBron James, “The Chosen One,” was never just Hollywood or Madison Avenue or Broadway or South Beach. He was a rich global figure, and Northeast Ohio has hardly been a big player on the global front.
Yet stars have long known what LeBron found out as partnered with Pat Riley, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami: His global light can shine brighter than anybody else’s no matter what team’s colors he wears.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)