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Return of LeBron James reopens Cavaliers' window to win a championship

But it won't stay open forever.

Mike Ehrmann

Seven years is a long time. Usually.

LeBron James' first seven seasons in the NBA, from 2003 to 2010, felt like the blink of an eye, in retrospect. When the Cavaliers lost in seven games to the Pistons in the 2006 NBA playoffs, the pain was dulled by the firm belief that they would eventually be able to overcome those Pistons. And they did, the very next season, before being subsequently swept by the Spurs in the 2007 NBA Finals. That still felt like just the beginning. Even the incredibly frustrating loss to the Magic in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals was softened by the knowledge that LeBron's team had at least one more playoff run to make.

But when they lost to the Celtics in 2010, it was over. LeBron tore off his jersey, left for Miami, and the championship window that once seemed infinite was suddenly closed for the foreseeable future.

Or so we thought.

The return of LeBron brings renewed hope. It reopens the Cavs' championship window, and they absolutely have to deliver on it this time. The biggest lesson from the first LeBron era was that if a team keeps waiting until next year, eventually next year won't be worth waiting for anymore. The window is always finite.

Up until Friday, David Griffin was the General Manager of a young team with a new coach and a lot of promise. Now, Griffin is the General Manager of a young team with a new coach and championship potential. Everything changed with the publication of those 952 words in Sports Illustrated. His focus can no longer be on development. It has to be on winning now, before it's too late.

In December, LeBron will turn 30 years old. He's already logged 39,993 combined regular season and postseason minutes. To put that in perspective, consider that Chris Bosh, who came into the league at the same time, has played 8,260 fewer total minutes in his career. LeBron is built like a tank, but even he can't last forever. As the saying goes: Father Time is undefeated. Michael Jordan's final title came during his 13th season in the NBA; this upcoming season will be LeBron's 12th.

It's impossible to know how long this window will remain open. It could be as short as just two or three seasons. It could be five. It could be more. But no matter how long it lasts, once it is over, it will not have felt long enough.

And so here's another lesson from the first LeBron era: Enjoy it while you can. The Cavs play 41 home games every regular season. That sounds like a lot, but it will be over before you know it. It always is. Whatever you've ever thought about LeBron, there's little doubt that he's the most unique athlete in the world right now. Someday, you'll be able to tell your children, or your grandchildren, I saw him play, and they will be riveted.

Don't let this moment pass by without really appreciating it.