Have you heard? LeBron James is going to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers once again. It's the biggest story of the NBA's offseason. As you can imagine, people on the internet wrote words about it. Lots of words. Here are some of them.
And so, for those of us here, the "hope" of the past four years, while James famously, often notoriously, plied his talents in South Beach, was not so much that he would come back to play for the Cavaliers as that he would come home. That he would show that the trend of loss is not so linear or simple, to validate that this is both a good place to be from and a good place to be. That this is the true American journey: to know where you belong and the struggle to get there, and to know that sometimes the journey leads exactly to where you started.
But in another way, LeBron can't go home again. At least not to the home he once knew. They may be grateful and joyful, but they are also wiser. Like the betrayed spouse, they will have to wait and see, they will have to be wooed, they will have to be convinced that his sincerity, to quote "Porgy and Bess," ain't a sometime thing.
The place never truly turned its back on him, either. Yes, fans burned his jerseys and cursed his name. They tore down his billboards and painted over his murals. But that was the hurt talking. LeBron isn't the first kid from a Rust Belt town to leave for warmer weather and starrier nights. Most return only for holidays and funerals. But LeBron kept coming back.
There are no guarantees. There is no ready-made, sure-fire champion. There's a new coach. There are young players. There's no Riley, no Dwyane, no proven blueprint to scrap up that cutthroat mountain. What there is, though, is a better LeBron. A LeBron who knows the way, a LeBron who knows what it takes, a LeBron capable of looking beyond all the past hate and laughing it off, understanding it wouldn't be Cleveland any other way.
I have not lived in Ohio since 2006. I do not plan to live in Ohio any time in the near or distant future, nor do I particularly want to raise my child there. But Ohio is still important to me because I am from there, and I very much want for Ohio to thrive. I think that's where a lot of my initial excitement about LeBron's return comes from: the idea that Ohio will thrive. That there will be tens of thousands of people in Downtown Cleveland for 40-plus Cavaliers home games every season for the foreseeable future.
Daring to dream and finding the inspiration to believe is especially difficult when faced with the challenges that growing up in the inner city present. On this particular day, however, with Mason working among them-and the momentum created by the news of James return-everything feels a bit more possible.
Miami may be the past and Cleveland may be the future but for LeBron, their meaning is rooted in the same guiding principle as passing to an open three-point shooter instead of driving into a brick wall: believing in the process. Think of a boomerang exercising more force on its return route. The road ahead is uncertain, replete with past ineptitude, the possibilities ranging from dreams of Kevin Love to a young roster and head coach not making good on their potential. It's the NBA after all, and the slope from contention to irrelevance is slippery.
They say that time heals all wounds. As I grow older, I'm becoming more and more of a believer in that sentiment. The anger and depression that I felt for years has been replaced with feelings of quiet satisfaction and cautious optimism. I'm not the same as I used to be. None of us are. It's impossible to not have been changed over the past four years. And the essay that LeBron wrote to announce that he is coming back home, coupled with the reaction by the city that he once spurned, is the ultimate story of forgiveness and hope.
If there is any other good stuff out there that I missed (I'm sure there is still quite a lot), feel free to post links in the comments.