Considering the mountain of negative publicity that followed the infamous "Decision," it's remarkable James can look back on the turning point in his career as anything but a negative experience. Yet, in an interview with GQ's Jeanne Marie Laskas, James said:
The best thing that ever happened to me. I needed it. It helped me grow as a man. As a professional, as a father. At the time, as a boyfriend. It helped me grow. Being confined, I spent my whole life in Akron, Ohio. For twenty-five years. Even though I played professionally in Cleveland, I still lived in Akron. Everything was comfortable. I knew everything, everybody knew me—everything was comfortable. I needed to become uncomfortable.
Practically speaking, it's true James' life improved after joining the Miami Heat. He's won a pair of championship trophies and a couple of MVPs and is now among the most beloved and marketable professional athletes on Earth.
Plus he spends his winters in Miami these days. That's not a bad thing.
But he could have reached this same enviable point without the televised spectacle "The Decision" created.
Fans in Cleveland would probably still hate him, but most people unaffiliated with the Rust Belt don't really care that he left his first NBA team; it was the way he left that irritated the masses.
The Decision was annoying, but LeBron really doesn't get enough credit for taking a huge pay cut to go to Miami.— Sean Highkin (@highkin) November 25, 2013
And it's definitely true that leaving a comfort zone can be a good thing in life, which is why we should partly believe James when he talks about the positives of getting out of his Akron bubble.
But let's not kid ourselves: If he had it to do over again, James would take his talents to South Beach without Jim Gray and a half-hour special.