LeBron James is back. Now get off his lawn.
Really, you should.
The frenzy that prompted people to rush to Bath Township even while James was jetting from Vegas to Miami, with a final destination of Rio, was evidence of how even people guided by GPS can still lose their minds.
I’m talking to those people now when I say, don’t fall off your barstool. And certainly don’t go crazier if James doesn’t sign for the maximum four years the Cavs can offer him (although he reportedly will). It doesn’t mean he’s leaving again.
He has always sought flexibility in his contracts. The same desire that resulted in opting out of his Miami deal will probably steer this contract, too. It makes too much business sense.
The salary cap keeps going up. James, who has remarkably never been the single highest paid player on his team, will likely want to take advantage of the inflation.
There’s no risk in a shorter term deal for a guy making $50-90 million a year for what he does off the court. This may cause the greatest case of Twitter angst since 24 hours ago when ESPN suggested Dan Gilbert’s letter might yet sabotage a reunion. Don’t let it.
All it means is James is a smart businessman getting good advice. The SI essay is proof that advice has improved.
“I’m not having a press conference or a party,” James wrote. “After this, it’s time to get to work.”
(By the way, sorry, Johnny, that’s one less party to attend).
James hasn’t suddenly fallen back in love with the Cavaliers or Gilbert. He was magnanimous in dismissing the bad feelings as a situation where they both made mistakes.
James departed in the worst way possible. But he didn’t say a single bad thing about the franchise, or the owner, or anyone else. Gilbert, in turn, called him a traitor, called the act cowardly, and mocked him as a self-proclaimed king.
Cleveland fans celebrate LeBron James returning to the Cavaliers Fans outside Quicken Loans Arena react to the news that LeBron James is returning home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That’s what makes this a remarkable comeback story. James saw past that. It’s also proof of just how wide of a big picture decision he made to return.
Gilbert’s willingness to pay the luxury tax no doubt counted for something with James and his agent. But mostly the Cavs represent a means to an end.
“I feel my calling here goes above basketball,” James wrote. “I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from.”
I mean, really now, would anybody be surprised if the Twitter speculation were true about Miami Heat president Pat Riley pointing to the ineptness and instability of the Cavs organization when he met his superstar in Vegas Wednesday?
That doesn’t say much for Riley or the Cavs but then again, where the organization is concerned, the truth hurts.
James is joining a franchise with a new GM, new head coach and an owner who couldn’t bring himself to utter James’ name long after the anger-fueled letter.
Maybe now he’s LeBron James and not The Player Who Returned? James wanted to be home so badly he overlooked all of that.
It’s not about the Cavs. It’s about him, his family, his legacy, and the supreme confidence he has in his ability to win regardless of some missing ingredients this time versus what he found in Miami in 2010.
He gets to repair a legacy, just by coming home to chase a title. If he wins one (not two, not three, not four...) that legacy grows exponentially.
James’ return will probably be framed as a second marriage with the Cavaliers. Don’t be fooled. The Cavs and Gilbert are simply beneficiaries in James’ love story with Northeast Ohio.
Bringing James back from under Riley’s nose feels like something out of an “Oceans Eleven” sequel.
It’s a remarkable story given how it ended here in 2010. But in all other ways, it’s the inevitable result of simple geography and LeBron James’ affection for where he grew up.
Bud Shaw is a columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.