Pros and Cons If LeBron James Would Return to Cleveland Cavaliers

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJanuary 22, 2013

Pros and Cons If LeBron James Would Return to Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Nearly three years ago LeBron James decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers in one of the most heartbreaking ways imaginable.

    After seemingly packing it in against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs before ripping his Cavs jersey off while heading towards the locker room for the last time, James' stay in Cleveland seemed all but over.

    Many bridges, and jerseys, were burned as James left his hometown Cavs for the bright lights of Miami and his new superstar teammates.

    Now a few years and a championship later, have the wounds completely healed from James' departure, and would the Cavs organization and fans welcome him back? 

    An argument could be made for and against a James return to Cleveland should he choose to sign with the Cavs.

Con: Dan Gilbert Swallowing His Pride

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    I always thought James would never return to Cleveland as long as Dan Gilbert was the majority owner.

    Gilbert wrote words towards James that some would deem unforgivable, calling his leaving "a shameful display of selfishness and betrayal" and that "his shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown 'chosen one' sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn."

    While James was wrong in the way he chose to leave, words like this from a person in Gilbert's position lacked both professionalism and maturity.

    Gilbert was later fined $100,000 from the league for his letter, one that ultimately proved to be wrong in his guarantee to win a championship before LeBron.

    If James decides to return, it would have to include a heavy dose of pride-swallowing from Mr. Gilbert.

    For someone who owns the Cavs and is supposed to be a strong, fearless leader we can all get behind and count on, this could be a very embarrassing situation for Gilbert.

Pro: National Relevancy

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    When James was last on the Cavs, they enjoyed quite a bit of national exposure.

    Frequently on major networks like ESPN and TNT, the Cavs were a hot ticket on the national stage and even got to play on Christmas Day against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009.

    While cities like L.A., New York, Boston and Chicago typically make all the headlines, it was nice to see a blue-collar city like Cleveland grabbing part of the spotlight.

    Now, things have changed dramatically.

    Last season, and for the first time since the Cavs drafted LeBron in 2003, Cleveland wasn't featured one time in a nationally televised game.

    This season isn't much better, as the Cavs got one scheduled game on ESPN with zero being broadcast on TNT.

    A team with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and others would certainly draw the eye of the big TV markets once again and shed some much-deserved positive light on the city of Cleveland.

Con: Money

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    If James signs with Cleveland, he would have to take a substantial pay cut. 

    If an NBA player re-signs with their own team, it can be for five years with the fifth season falling around $25 million.  If they choose to sign elsewhere, it can only be on a four-year deal with no fifth season for that $25 million.

    Therefore, James stands to make the most money he can by staying in Miami, a deal that would be tough to pass up.

    On the Cavaliers' side, they've done an excellent job of keeping their salary cap space open for years now and stand to have ample space in the following seasons.

    Signing James to a maximum contract would likely signify an end to that cap space that they've worked so hard to get and keep for so long.  While it would seem like a no-brainer to lock up a player like James if he's available, one has to keep in mind that a four-year deal in the summer of 2014 would take James up until his 33rd birthday.

    The Cavs have to be confident that James can keep up his high level of play into his 30s, because they won't have the money to bring in another star free agent to help out.

Pro: Cavs Would Be One of the NBA's Best

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    When James left the Cavs for Miami, Cleveland went from the best to the worst record in the entire NBA.

    Could we see a reversal of fortunes with a return?

    The Cavs only lead the Washington Wizards in the league standings, yet have plenty of young talent to build around for the future.

    Kyrie Irving is already a top NBA point guard while Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters appear to be solid NBA starters or more as their careers progress.

    What the Cavs really need is a dynamic small forward to pull it all together.  Someone who can score, pass, rebound and defend.


    A lineup of Irving, Waiters, James, Thompson and Zeller/Anderson Varejao would instantly be one of the best in the conference.

    Given a few years to develop together, and they could easily be the best in the league.

Con: Fan Reaction

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    Cleveland fans are some of the most brass and passionate you'll find in the entire country.

    One trip to a Browns game on a Sunday afternoon will easily show you that.

    When James left, fans took it personally.  We had watched him since he was just a teenager at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron.  We watched when he won three high school championships.  We watched as he declared for the NBA draft and cheered when our hometown Cavaliers won the rights to the first overall pick.

    From the day he walked on stage and shook hands with NBA commissioner David Stern and put on that Cavaliers hat until the day he made his decision, we were watching.

    James was more than just a player for our favorite team, he was a boy turned man right in front of our eyes, someone who represented Cleveland with talent and class on a national level.

    When he left, it felt to many like losing a family member.  A family member who didn't want to be a part of the family anymore.

    If James did decide he wanted to return to Cleveland and make it right with the fans, he should certainly expect a mixed reaction.

    Cleveland fans are stubborn, and they don't easily forget.  It may take some time to come around to the idea of a return, while others may always hold hate in their hearts for James.

Pro: Closure

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    When James made his decision, it was immediately grouped with other Cleveland sports tragedies.

    The Drive, the Shot, the Fumble, the Move.  The Decision now resonates in our history with all of the other painful memories Cleveland has had to endure.

    What if, however, Earnest Byner got another chance to hold on to the ball?  What if Craig Ehlo received a second chance at guarding Michael Jordan?  What if one of the most painful memories in Cleveland sports history had a chance at being avenged?

    What if what turned out to be the decision to leave became a decision to return?

    What has been a historically poor-luck town could begin to have their fortunes reversed by the return of one of the greatest athletes to ever have been born in the state.

    If James returns, it would not only provide the closure many fans seek but also provide optimism for what would suddenly be a very bright future in Cleveland.