While all eyes are transfixed on the soap opera that is the Miami Heat and their quest for their second title in as many years, the storyline that is not getting much publicity is whether LeBron James’s time in South Beach is coming to an end.
LeBron has an early termination option after the 2014 season and a player option for the 2015 season, which means if he wants to be, LeBron can become an unrestricted free agent as early as next summer.
Here are five reasons LeBron should return to Cleveland—a move unthinkable just a short while ago—for the final chapter of his career.
Thanks to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James achieved what he set out to do upon taking his talents to South Beach. LeBron united the super friends to help him win a title, something he could not will his woefully bad supporting cast in Cleveland to do.
And, during his stay in Miami, he has become an even better all-around player. He can guard all five positions, has become a more efficient offensive player and proved to naysayers that he can perform in the clutch. He added a post game, and became a more consistent jump-shooter as demonstrated by improvements in field-goal and three-point percentages in each of his three years in Miami.
Joining the Heat allowed LeBron to take steps that have firmly put him in the pantheon of NBA greats. Now free of those burdens, James has a legacy to worry about, and there are better places to cement one than South Beach.
Like his hometown.
Call him "Flash", call him LeBron’s sidekick, call him "fall down seven times stand up eight."
Whatever anyone chooses to call Dwyane Wade, keep these two words in mind: washed up.
Much has been made of Wade’s poor showing in this year's Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers, as Wade lacked the explosiveness that NBA fans have become accustomed to seeing from him.
Whether he is injured or not, this decline is a troubling sign. Wade could pull it together for these Finals, and with an offseason of rest next season he should be same old DWade for the 2014 season. But the reckless style he has played with his whole career might just be catching up to him.
Wade will turn 32 next year, and when a player without much of a jump shot, whose game is built on athleticism, starts to physically deteriorate, the results aren’t pretty. Just ask Gerald Wallace and Jermaine O’Neal, who’s careers vanished before their eyes along with their hops.
LeBron should think twice before re-upping with a downward-trending Dwyane Wade.
Not only did Kyrie Irving make his first All-Star appearance in 2013 as a 21-year-old, but he received some high praise from an admirer at the All-Star festivities.
The Miami Herald interviewed LeBron during All-Star weekend, and James was quoted as saying, “It’s always fun playing with [Carmelo Anthony], and it was awesome to play with Kyrie,” James said. “I watch Kyrie a lot.”
LeBron went onto gush about how Irving is “unbelievable” and what he’s going to be doing in the future will be “crazy.”
The old Cleveland, in which James had to rely on the likes of Sasha Pavlovic and Donyell Marshall for assistance, are no longer. James could position himself along side Irving and Cleveland’s young nucleus which will include the top pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
LeBron has never played alongside an elite point guard, and the idea of leaving some of the playmaking responsibilities to someone else must be a very tantalizing proposition to a player nearing thirty and hoping to extend his playing career.
Upon LeBron’s move to Miami, he was labeled a villain.
He was the bad guy, the guy who abandoned his hometown to assemble a cast of stars and live it up in sexy South Beach, leaving Cleveland title-less.
But that’s not who LeBron is. During the 2011 season, LeBron embraced that role and attempted to be who everyone made him out to be. After that season, Brian Windhorst from ESPN interviewed LeBron about that mindset, and LeBron talked about how being playing that villain role changed the way he played the game, and changed his demeanor: “It basically turned me into somebody I wasn't…That’s not the way I play the game of basketball."
He then changed this mentality, getting back to playing with the joy he had played with before. This became apparent to everyone as he began jumping up and down like a kid on Christmas morning as he won the 2012 NBA championship.
LeBron does not want to be hated, he wants to be celebrated and he wants to be loved. And as of right now, his relationship with Cleveland is icy at best. Going back to the Cavaliers would repair that relationship and make amends for any transgressions in the past.
And returning to Cleveland is what a good guy would do.
The last championship in baseball, basketball or football that the city of Cleveland has had the opportunity to celebrate was 1964, almost 50 years ago.
If LeBron came back to Cleveland and delivered the title-starved town a championship, he would become a living legend. That might even be enough to make the entire state forget he left in the first place! Okay, maybe it wouldn’t heal all wounds, but he certainly wouldn’t have to worry about ill will anymore. He would be loved and adored, just as a man of his talents should be.
It would be the ultimate form of catharsis, a way to fully heal the wounds of 2010. Possibly the only way to really do so is to become Cleveland's sports hero.