LeBron James is hoping his second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers brings a championship to the city for the first time in nearly 50 years.
This is the Cavaliers we’re talking about, owned by Dan Gilbert, who have netted three of the last four no. 1 draft picks since James left the franchise in 2010.
James wasted no time leaving his friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach, becoming the first of the big three to opt out of their contracts for next season after a putrid NBA Finals performance where the Miami Heat lost to the San Antonio Spurs in just five games.
When he left Cleveland in 2010, it was a no-brainer for James to go play with Wade and Bosh – it gave him the best chance to win multiple championships by joining forces with arguably two other top 15 players at the time. James had thought winning in Miami would be that much easier to the point that he joked about winning “not five, not six, not seven….” He only won two, but four years later he comes back to Cleveland with new aspirations and a focus that’s bigger than basketball.
Not five, not six, not seven – just one for the city of Cleveland. In his personal essay written by Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, James made it clear that the move to come back home is not strictly about winning championships. He’s established close relationships with the people in the community there going back to his days in high school and the Boys & Girls Club.
He feels he has a responsibility to lead the youth in the community of Northeast Ohio. Now that he’s a champion having looked scrutiny in the face, he believes he can teach the young Cavaliers how to become champions as well.
That’s the task at hand for James.
Though it can’t be finalized until Aug. 23, Kevin Love is now a Cavalier and will opt out of his contract next summer and re-sign a five-year, $120 million extension, according to multiple reports. James, Love and Kyrie Irving are now the best trio in the league, much like James, Wade and Bosh were in 2010.
In six years, Love failed to make the playoffs with the Minnesota Timberwolves but was always able to accrue his numbers. Turning 26 next month and in the middle of his prime, he averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds, third-best in the league last season. Irving was last year’s All Star Game MVP and at 22, is on track to become one of the top point guards in the game for the rest of James’ career.
Neither Wade nor Bosh were good enough anymore to be the second best option on a championship-caliber team led by James. That brings up the question as to whether or not Love or Irving can be.
Love is close to signing a major extension having never proved himself on the NBA’s biggest stage where superstars are born – the playoffs. Irving has his $90 million coming to him but still has the maturation process to go through.
To get that one championship for the city of Cleveland, it will fall on the broad shoulders of James just as much as it did for the two he won in Miami. As he turns 30 in December, the decline years for James will tell a lot about his impact on the sport as a whole as he tries to cement himself on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore.
Winning a championship in Cleveland might do just that.