LeBron James has two titles, an 84.25-inch wingspan, four MVP awards, at least $270 million dollars, a Cavaliers contract sitting on Dan Gilbert’s desk, a house in a Cleveland suburb, and kids. That last one – those two boys and a girl on the way – that’s the one that matters. Natives of the Metropolis of the Western Reserve will spend this afternoon celebrating in front of King James Bath Township throne and basking in the warmth given off by flaming Miami jerseys, but no one knows better than James how fickle fans can be. If James' article in Sports Illustrated announcing his intention to come home announced one thing (besides the thing it announced), it’s that James now knows who his audience is. That audience of three will witness something special when the new-look Cavs trot out onto the parquet at Quicken Loans Arena.
James' sentimentality about Cleveland and his family is not just interesting because LeBron, the man who couldn’t help but be king, is inherently interesting, but because there are basketball ramifications to personal growth. The most obvious takeaway is that James will retire in a Cavaliers uniform. That will likely happen regardless of whether he’s playing for a max contract, which frees up space for Gilbert to go out and recruit talent. James talked about building up Kyrie Irving into a force, and his presence will definitely help the young point guard, but the balance sheet will determine Irving’s future. Today, his future on the Cavs looks bright because James has basically bought into the franchise. LeBron is not going to put his kids through another “decision” (with all that would entail), so the conversation is now fairly simple: What will it take to bring the Larry O'Brien trophy to the Mistake on the Lake?
James' announcement took off on social media after he tweeted a bit.ly link to the Sports Illustrated article at 9:31 AM. That tweet has been retweeted 33,000 times (so far), and on every one of the feeds that now features it, those fateful random characters (1zu0IHz) stand next to an image of James, his wife, and his two boys admiring a Samsung Galaxy. This is the new LeBron. The James brand isn't about “my talents” anymore. And that’s great news for anyone who loves sports, because James is essentially announcing that anything short of that championship - “” - will be failure. James’ efforts to turn around the Cavs just became an HBO-style character study: House of Cavs.
LeBron James grew up, which is what young men do. He’s better now than he was in Miami and he’s visited the promised land. Milk and honey tasted good, but it wasn’t the same as Mom used to make. Expect to see the James family – not just a bunch of CGIedLeBrons either – in commercials, and expect a rocky road to an early playoff exit. Expect James to lead his team and his city. The best player on Earth knows that now is the time to be even better. People are watching this time. His people.
Photos by Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports