Psalm 1 from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Luke tells us “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
That passage from the New Testament of the Bible has long spoken to the power of forgiveness in healing wounds and in delivering tidings of great joy. This week, the enduring power of that verse has been reinforced for the city of Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio in the most unlikely of settings: the professional basketball arena.
The righteousness, maturity and forgiving spirit of LeBron James, arguably the most talented player to ever grace the courts of the National Basketball Association, have brought a bevy of blessings to this region.
James’ signing on the dotted line of a $42.1 million contract over the weekend to commit himself to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the next two years ushers in a promising new era of pride and hope in a region more accustomed to depression and despair.
Luring Akron-born LeBron back to Northeast Ohio was no mean feat. After all, James’ self-righteous words from 2010 — “I am taking my talents to South Beach” — unleashed a hailstorm of vitriol from fans who burned his jersey in the streets to owner Dan Gilbert who let loose volleys of anger in a caustic letter on the team’s website. In that letter, Gilbert referred to James as “our former hero” and described his move to Miami as a “cowardly betrayal.”
Fortunately for all players, time and circumstance have healed most of the festering wounds of those words. Over the past four years, James clearly has evolved into a more mature player and human being. Evidence of that metamorphosis rises from the pages of his Sports Illustrated essay, released Friday.
“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” James stated on SI.com. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
In his court, Gilbert’s respectful one-on-one fence-mending with James and his deletion of the nasty letter from the Cavaliers’ website sealed the deal for James’ triumphant and rollicking return to the city that rocks.
Now it’s time to let the blessings roll.
VALUE OF JAMES’ RETURN
In the sports arena, James’ return provides Cleveland and most in the Mahoning Valley who root for Cleveland the most tangible hope yet that our 50-year drought from a professional sports title may finally end. LeBron’s already superlative agility and playing skills have improved since leaving his hometown, leading the Miami Heat to two national titles and four consecutive berths in the NBA Finals.
In the economic arena, James’ homecoming assuredly will spark rebounds on many fronts. At Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs dropped from second in total attendance in the NBA during James’ final season in 2010 to 19th two years later. The impact of that colossal loss reverberated on the streets of downtown restaurants and bars and into sports shops hawking LeBron wear from Shaker Heights to Boardman.
In a larger, less-tangible arena, King James’ return provides a much-needed assist to the quality of life and positive self-image of Northeast Ohioans. Added to Cleveland’s selection to host the 2016 Republican National Convention and the Cleveland Browns’ acquisition of stellar quarterback Johnny Manziel, LeBron’s return caps a recent triumvirate of priceless feel-good elixirs for the region.
As a result, let us become the latest cheerleader to welcome LeBron home, where we’re confident he’ll sink in many slam-dunk blessings for the Cavaliers franchise, the Northeast Ohio economy and the collective regional psyche.