Four years ago, LeBron James transformed from the face of the NBA to the typecast villain of the league. The four-time MVP was once heralded for his humility and selflessness. However, in the wake of his controversial move, James was depicted immediately as self-absorbed off the court. Much of this stigma is due to the launch of his hour-long nationally televised ESPN special entitled The Decision. The airing of the show was heavily criticized as many complained that the All Star chose a poor platform to announce his departure. Some criticism placed him as the scapegoat for the Cleveland Cavaliers failure to win an NBA title during his stint. The lack of loyalty in the eyes of many Cleveland Cavaliers fans led to a social uproar. Leading the charge against LeBron James was Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert, as the pair were unable to settle their differences.
While many people were quick to point out The Decision as an ego driven move for 10-time All Star, very few remember anything other than the publicity aspect of the program. However, the $2.5 million James donated to the Boys & Girls Club as proceeds from the show is rarely brought up by media. Skeptics questioned LeBron’s resolve to win as rumors of a growing fear amongst fans became evident that he decided to give up on hope of wining a title with the Cavs. The team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2003 was quite disappointed. Despite consistently playing at a high level, the “best basketball player in the world” James failed win the bring the Cavaliers back to an NBA Finals. After making the Final in his third season with the team, expectations over the next four seasons were high, but the results were similarly disheartening. The only asterisk missing from his resume before James left Cleveland was an NBA championship.
Instead of waiting longer for Gilbert’s front office to acquire a complimentary star, James left in a blur. The Akron, Ohio native abandoned nearby Cleveland for the comforts of Miami as he elected to play with his friends, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, for the Miami Heat. When LeBron infamously announced that he would be taking his “talents to South Beach”, an irate Gilbert spoke as the voice of rage for fans. The Cavaliers owner questioned James’ loyalty and appreciation for the city/team. In a letter, Gilbert addressed the superstar’s decision, promptly calling King James’ behavior out as a “cowardly betrayal” and made fun of LeBron’s nicknames. Gilbert even went as far as to promise the Cavaliers would win a championship before LeBron did.
However, four years later, the next official decision of the star forward’s basketball career was announced Saturday. LeBron James and Dan Gilbert have apparently settled their differences. Now a two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, James signed on the dotted line to reunite with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since the incident, James had already publicly apologized for the way he handled leaving to play for the Miami Heat. However, the announcement of his latest decision revealed that James “always believed” he would return to Cleveland later in his career. In his announcement, James took to Sports Illustrated in a personal essay to not only announce his decision, but to end speculation as to why he decided to leave the Miami Heat.
After reaching four straight NBA finals and winning half of them, James’ new quest shifts back to bringing a championship trophy back to Cleveland. Before reconciling their differences, LeBron James sat down with Dan Gilbert on Sunday to settle issues. Gilbert referred to some of the comments in his letter as stupid and eventually won over a forgiving James with his pitch. “If you chose to end relationships because of one mistake, you’re going to be alone,” said Gilbert. James reportedly signed a two-year deal worth $42.2 million, but remains committed to the Cavs long-term. Instead of locking himself into a four year deal, LeBron is waiting until the NBA’s mew television deal will help to increase a maximum contracts for players. If LeBron James can utilize his leadership and skills to improve the team’s defense, there may be another Big Three contending in the East next season.
Commentary by Brandon Wright