It had already been a long 11 days in the NBA with free agency rumors of which player will go where and what team is trading for who. But the hot topic, was none other than LeBron James.
James and the rest of the Heat fell to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. Shortly after, talks began about James leaving the Heat to find a new team to play on. This bringing much surprise and controversy to the NBA community.
No one really thought Lebron would opt into free agency after four straight trips to the NBA finals with his new team, the Miami Heat. But, after the Spurs had their heartbreaking loss to the Heat in 2013, the Alamo City boys came back hungry for that championship. They knew what they needed to do as a team and as players; and the minor additions of Jeff Ayres and Marco Belinelli, they knew this ‘drive for five’ would be tough, but worth it in the end.
And then, the Spurs won. They became the 2014 NBA Champions and everyone thought “the Good Guys finally won.” But why are they called the good guys? Maybe because the Spurs’ fearless leader Tim Duncan was never one to blast his private life in the media. He kept his private life…private. He said nothing but great things about fellow teammates, coaches and players. And Duncan has always had the “nice guy” demeanor. As you pay attention to each player on the Spurs’ roster, you see that they really are ‘nice guys’. They are the men that other players look at and think in a basketball-state-of-mind, “I wish we could pass like that, so selflessly,” I’m sure everyone has thought that just by seeing the Spurs play. But in whole, it is true. Just as much off the court as they are on the court, so selfless. With the ball, and with each other as teammates.
And this is where LeBron may have been looking at himself saying, “I have yet to be the nice guy.” I take it that after the loss to the Spurs, Lebron wants to remember these times forever, involving his family and friends and where his heart truly is on and off the court. Based off his new decision, his heart was still in Cleveland – his hometown.
LeBron states in his letter from SI.com:
“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.” Now, do you remember the ceremony, parade, and press conferences of the 2014 NBA Finals? Remember Duncan with his two kids up at the podium and walking with him everywhere hand-in-hand? Might James have noticed how much the concept of ‘family’ meant to the Spurs? It was the most meaningful championship they had to date. James might have wanted to feel that same meaningful satisfaction. And he would not get that in Miami.
The Heat were starting to fall apart. Dwayne Wade is not as fast as he used to be, and after cautiously managing his minutes, who knows if he will last a whole season. Most of the roster aged quickly, not too horribly, but it was clear who the better team was in the Finals just one month ago.
While the Spurs, who were famously known as the “old guys,” were able to amaze the rest of the NBA with their skills, stamina and teamwork. The Spurs had it down to a ‘T’ and no other team in the league did.
LeBron then opted for free agency. His agent Rich Paul had spoken with officials from the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets. Ultimately his decision would ultimately be between the Cavaliers and the Heat.
Then, LeBron decided to go back home. This time, he wrote in this letter that he felt it was more important to bring a trophy back to the Northeast of Ohio. For the first time in a long while, I saw LeBron appreciate something that many of us have forgotten or do not think of very often - our hometown: the place where we grew up and is the home and foundation to the way we were raised.
LeBron also states in his letter:
“It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people [Cleveland fans] ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left?…I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. ..Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.”
He came out with his new decision like a professional.
He found the way to really be a man in this society with the role that he has in life. Something someone like Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker could teach to most. The Spurs’ ‘Big 3′ is always true to their fans and each other. That was something that LeBron was lacking, that he may have finally found. James knew he had made mistakes and I think this was a way for him to give himself a new start. He is ready to focus on a team that he can build for his career and he wants to be seen as a good man that has ultimately done right by his hometown.
A San Antonio native might always see the Spurs’ ‘Big 3′ as the best guys to ever play as a trio and the ‘good guys of San Antonio.’ But, for a 7-year old in Akron, they can now watch LeBron build his life around a team that needs the love and support that it rarely gets.