It is a story that is starting to pick up steam, again. You know, the idea that an in-his-prime LeBron James would leave the Miami Heat and return home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The theory is mostly born out of the thought that James wants to fix his relationship with Cleveland, his home state (he is from Akron, not Cleveland), and finish his career by bringing NBA Titles to a city who has received more number one overall NBA Draft picks than it has championships in any sport over the last few decades.
Sounds like a great script. A movie that Disney would want to make. A once beloved local hero leaves for greener pastures, only to return home to rectify everything and bring the downtrodden something to care about, root for, and deliver something that they have craved for, a title of any kind.
That is all well and good. It isn’t a horrible thing to wonder if LeBron James would ever return to Cleveland. Whether or not you think it is realistic that he does, though, seems to be the topic these days.
However, no matter which side of the argument you are taking, it seems like everyone is focusing on the wrong things.
People who think that James is going back to the Cavs are citing things that are only theoretical. If Cleveland lands this guy, gets that free agent, and/or gets so and so to stay, LeBron will come back. Which sounds like easy things to happen when a fan says it, but that is certainly a lot of things to come together just to pitch a return to a guy who is now obsessed with chasing rings. And don’t kid yourself, either. Even if all the chips land where Cleveland needs it, and all the weird scenarios fall into place, all it leaves the Cavaliers with is the chance to pitch a return to LeBron — not guarantee a return from him.
Then there are the folks who dismiss the return all together. They talk about Cleveland being, well Cleveland. That getting the perfect situation in place for a LeBron James return is as likely as Christina Ricci going on a date with me because she likes chubby guys.
While the first group of people do seem a bit unrealistic, it is the second group’s dismissiveness that makes you wonder if anyone honestly knows what is what. Even though, really, no one has any idea what James wants to do with his future and we are all partaking in the guessing of the wants and needs of another man’s desires game.
Even with all of that being said, though, we are ignoring a simple reason why a return to Cleveland for LeBron James is marred.
Gilbert, who is now best known as the guy who promised Cleveland NBA Titles before James would win his first (how did they work out), is not the best owner in the world. Sometimes smug, a billionaire a few times over, Gilbert’s only successes within the NBA are during the era of LeBron in Cleveland. Those successes, which are worth noting, were in despite of Gilbert and mostly, nearly solely, because of James.
Gilbert became majority owner of the Cavaliers in March 2005. What he did next, which now seems to be a recurring theme, is he cleaned house. Front-office personnel fired, the coaching staff given the heave-ho, and a pretty substantial overhaul of the roster. Really, it is what Gilbert has done since he has owned the team, even during the LeBron era.
During his run with the Cavaliers, James had to deal with an inept ownership doing the only thing they knew how to do, make bad and rash decisions.
As LeBron’s star started to grow as the league’s best player and pundits started to crush him for a lack of NBA Playoff success, Gilbert and the people he hired surrounded James with not-so-great talent. While he currently plays with a few future Hall-of-Fame players, James’ Cleveland days saw him playing with an overpaid Larry Hughes, a friendly Booby Gibson, and a slew of other role-type players. Simply put, not NBA Championship caliber guys.
The lack of talent being put around LeBron James was one of the biggest reasons why he left the Cavaliers to begin with. It wasn’t because he disliked the city, or the fans, or the experience.
He wanted to win.
The allure of playing for a Pat Riley put together team in Miami, with an already established superstar there and another joining the fold, was just too much for a competitive person like James to pass up.
Yet, here we are. A few years later. Knowing everything that we know. Arguing about a LeBron James return to Cleveland.
We do all of this, mind you, while knowing everything that we know now. That Gilbert has been an inept NBA owner for nearly a decade. That, sans getting lucky enough to draft James, nearly every move he has made has resulted in dud after dud.
That it has gotten so bad for the franchise that no one thinks they are a franchise of consequence, even though they have had the very top pick in three of the last four NBA Drafts.
It would be like Hollywood continuing to let a director make movies even though he always goes over budget, they never make any money, and are always panned by critics, but we still expect that director to eventually make a blockbuster by getting an A-List actor to join the cast, because logic is stupid or something.
People who are great, no matter the profession, want to work with other great people. They want to be challenged by their peers, pushed by their colleagues, and be in an environment that screams winning. No other profession in the world more so than big time sports.
So, tell me again, why is it that LeBron is or isn’t going back to Cleveland? Because I think there is only one reason needed why he doesn’t, and that reason can’t be fixed, traded, signed, waived, or put out to pasture.
But don’t be sad, Cavaliers fans. At least you got a bowtie wearing Dan Gilbert writing you letters, a son he gives all the credit to for winning the Draft Lottery each year, and screaming look at me in the process.
We see you, Dan Gilbert. We see you for everything you are. A ruiner of things and possible Disney movies.