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LeBron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers will bring an economic boost and a sense of pride to this state, and especially to northeast Ohio. The prodigal son is coming home.
All of the hand-wringing and the will-he-or-won’t-he drama was quieted last week by Mr. James, who represented the National Basketball Association — and his family — with a grace that was in stark contrast to his departure four years ago, when he revealed his plans to join the Miami Heat on a garish TV special.
On the court, Mr. James has matured since he was last Ohio’s basketball king, but in announcing his return to his hometown, he also showed an elevated level of eloquence and sophistication. Instead of making a pretentious televised appearance, he shared his story with one outlet, Sports Illustrated magazine’s Web site, and explained his actions in a way he never had before
“I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl,” Mr. James told SI.com. “I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.”
Mr. James grew up in Akron. Based on calculations by Cuyahoga County’s fiscal office, his return will mean $500 million a year in additional Cavaliers ticket sales and other spending in Cleveland and northeast Ohio.
It’s not just about the money, though. His return gives everybody a shot at redemption, because his departure from Cleveland brought out the worst in everyone. His ill-conceived “Decision” came across as arrogant. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s letter in response to his exit was petty and embarrassing. And some Cleveland fans showed a lack of class by burning his jersey.
Mr. James had a right to explore and choose where he wanted to play, just as he has a right to return to Cleveland. He said that his relationship with northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball, but he didn’t realize that four years ago. Such an acknowledgment indicates he is ready to be both a team leader and a community ambassador.
Let’s take Mr. James at his word. Sports teams and high-profile players have long inspired civic pride in cities across the nation and world. His return to Cleveland should have an impact that reaches far beyond basketball.
Mr. James said he has unfinished business with the Cavaliers, but tempered expectations by saying he would like to bring at least one NBA championship trophy home. Whether he can end the long-suffering city’s sports drought remains to be seen, but his energized recommitment to his hometown is significant. As it turns out, you can go home again.