The Discussion: Possibility of LeBron James returning to Cleveland

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Jun 21, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) celebrates with the Bill Russell mvp trophy after winning the NBA championship in game five of the 2012 NBA Finals at the American Airlines Arena. The Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Although this isn’t news to many, I still think discussing the possibility – that’s all it stands at right now – of LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2014 is important on two levels; from a sports perspective and how high we hold ourselves as human beings who go through emotional roller coasters all throughout life. I recently reached out to Cavalier fans through the means of social media – primarily Facebook – to pose this question: As a Cavalier fan, what are your thoughts on the possibility of LeBron James coming back to play in Cleveland?

Disclaimer: Everyone who expressed their thoughts on my timeline agreed that they could be represented in this article. If you see a name quoted as a source that you don’t otherwise recognize, it is an opinion from a fan that contributed in this exercise.

Being from northeastern Ohio (which means most of my friends are from the Cleveland area), you could just imagine that I’d get my fair share of trololols on this status (i.e. “I’ll get my pitchfork ready.”), but intriguing conversation and debate ensued instead. Before we delve into how fans feel about the opportunity of a second Homecoming and crowning of King James, let’s look at a short timeline of how this story developed in the first place:

May 12, 2011 After getting over the playoff hump that was the Boston Celtics, LeBron apologizes to Cleveland in press conference: “As much as I love my teammates back in Cleveland, as much as I love home, I knew I couldn’t do it myself against (the Celtics).” Uhhhh, okay, elaborate LeBron. “With all the friends and family and fans back home, I apologize for the way it happened.” Was that sincere enough for you, Cleveland?

June 12, 2011“There are NO SHORTCUTS” and “same personal problems” shots fired between Cavalier and LeBron camps. Bang! Bang!: You knew that Dan Gilbert was going to take to Twitter and that LeBron would address Cleveland after the Heat lost against the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals.

January 24, 2012 – As first reported by FOX Sports Ohio, LeBron shows interest in returning to Cleveland: All LeBron ever wanted was to be loved by all, but he threw that scenario out the window after “The Decision” debacle. It’s also no secret that James can opt out of his contract in Miami after the 2013-14 season. This was all reported just a few weeks into Kyrie Irving’s professional career, so these swirling rumors didn’t have too much backbone to them.

February 12, 2012 LeBron James connoisseur and current ESPN.com writer Brian Windhorst provides the backbone that fans needed to begin discussion of a return: After practicing in Quicken Loans Arena before a matchup with the Cavs, LeBron said, “it would be fun to play in front of these fans again.” But what he said afterward is what we will probe into more later on: “If I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me.” Time heals (some) wounds, but therein lies the question if owner Dan Gilbert would entertain the idea after his Comic Sans letter to Benedict LeBron.

In that same article, Cavaliers shooting guard and James’ friend Daniel “Boobie” Gibson had this to say:

I don’t think he’d be welcome. Not with the way that went down. It was a pretty tough situation. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t feel comfortable with that at all.

June 21, 2012 Dan Gilbert sort of congratulates Miami on winning the NBA championship and “Congrats LeBron” trends in Cleveland area: As ambiguous as it was, Gilbert did send kudos to both teams on a well-played Finals.

Feb 17, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) warms up during pregame as a fan holds up a sign before a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

December 22, 2012Jason Lloyd brings back LeBron rumors from the graveyard with plausible argument: We already knew that LeBron has the opportunity to opt out of his contract in the summer of 2014, but the stars are aligning in Cleveland’s direction for now. Kyrie Irving is an emerging superstar (something that was missing in his seven-year stint in Cleveland), he shares (local) agent Rich Paul with Irving and Tristan Thompson and the team’s current situation would allow James to sign a max contract due to Cleveland’s bountiful cap space, but the Cavaliers still need to make a strong case in the 2013-14 season as a team no longer stuck in rebuilding process.

January 11, 2013 After a Cleveland loss to the Denver Nuggets, head coach George Karl can “see” LeBron making a return to the Cavaliers: Out of everything that Karl said re: LeBron returning, I thought this was the most interesting:

I think LeBron is at that stage where he’s challenging himself to motivate him to do something that’s maybe more difficult.

Kyrie also commented on the situation, saying, “Until it happens, I won’t really have a reaction to it.” Well played, but Gibson (remember his comments from earlier?) had this to share:

Anything is possible. The fans are forgiving. Everybody should be forgiving. You never know.

Hmmm. Also, Byron Scott had no comment on the situation at hand.

January 15, 2013 Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio provides some insight on where the Cavaliers and LeBron stand as of right now: Apparently apologies were issued according to sources (most likely Rick Reilly – kidding!) close to James and the Cavaliers, and “he is expected to take full advantage of the word ‘option.’”

January 16, 2013Another Fox Sports Ohio aficionado, Zac Jackson, reports that Akron head coach Keith Dombrot (who coached LeBron at St. Vincent-St. Mary) and current St. V-M head coach Dru Joyce say that “anything is always possible”: They also agreed that LeBron has matured since he left in 2010 and that his love for the city of Akron could lure him into coming back to play in Cleveland.

CONTINUE TO THE NEXT PAGE FOR FAN ANALYSIS…

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