As I sit there in the deep blue chair that rests in the middle of my living room, watching the announcement come on, all I can do is stare in disbelief. My childhood basketball hero, Lebron James was leaving his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat. He was turning his back on his home, betraying the ones who worshipped him like a god. All in pursuit of the championship; the ring. I felt shocked and hurt. Never again will I support someone like him again. Never will I forgive him for what he has done. But that was five years ago.
I used to believe that once people reach a certain age, that’s the type of person they would be the rest of their life. People don’t change once they reach that point, that’s the way they’ll always be. This belief is what made me always resent Lebron because I always saw him as a selfish, front-running, egotistical person. He was the epitome of a traitor. How could someone ever root for a man who turns his back on his home?
Then the summer of 2013 came around. Lebron had won three championships with Miami, but failed to win a fourth the season before, after losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the finals. It was now the offseason. A time of wild accusations, and crazy assumptions. Per usual, rumors arose of Lebron leaving Miami and returning home to Cleveland, just like every other summer. I dismissed the rumors as always, simply to avoid getting my hopes up. As the summer progressed, however, so did the rumors. They kept gaining more and more traction, with more and more credible sources confirming the rumors. Then, before you know it, Lebron had agreed to return to the Cavaliers. I was shocked, nearly as much as I was when he first left. Weeks after the announcement I still could not believe it, I felt as if one morning I would wake up and learn that it was all just an odd, realistic dream about a topic that shouldn’t be as serious as I make it out to be. But soon, the signing was official, Lebron was a Cav again. The king has returned to his kingdom.
It was actually quite confusing of a time for me, when it came to my feelings towards Lebron. One part of me still wasn’t willing to forgive him for leaving, because it was still quite a selfish decision to make, claiming that he had a better chance to win in Miami as opposed to Cleveland. Especially coming from someone who my dad claims threw the finals to have an excuse to leave. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to see the logic and reasoning behind it. Lebron was simply a human being like the rest of us, susceptible to selfishness and greed. There is always something we desire and seek in this life, and for Lebron, it was a championship. He was nervous, he got scared that he may never win a championship, so he panicked and decided to take the easy way out and join two other superstars, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on a team that was destined to win a championship. It was simply a natural reaction. When one realizes that they may never get what they have dedicated their whole life to, it takes a lot out of them, even if it is simply the possibility of it happening. When Lebron lost in the playoffs his final year with the Cavs the first time around, he fell hard, leading him to panic and choosing to go somewhere he simply could not fail. And fail he did not, having won three championships in Miami. What he did next, after his dominance in Miami, is what made me believe that he was not the person I perceived him to be. Lebron was able to recognize that his work was done, he had won his championships. He had fulfilled his dream, but it was time to do what he needed to do as opposed to what he was supposed to do. It was now time to give the people of Cleveland what they deserved and what they had been hoping for since 1964 for: a championship. The path to a Cleveland championship looked rough, with the Cavs roster looking bleak besides the rising star Kyrie Irving, but the team would be gaining back the greatest player in the game. There were still holes to be fixed and Lebron couldn’t single handedly carry a team (or could he?). The Cavs decided it was best to trade for both Kevin Love and Timofy Mozgov, two well-established big men, to help him and Kyrie out.
The first season with Lebron back started out rough, with the team not really being able to meld together as a unit yet, but Lebron did not give up. He kept fighting and working hard and brought the Cavs all the way to the NBA championship against Steph Curry and the Warriors. Although the storybook ending didn’t happen, they held their own, only losing the series 4-2.
After the finals, Lebron remained patient. A side of him I hadn’t seen before. The old him may have run away again, but he persisted and looked forward to the next season, hungry to bring his people what they wanted. The 2015-16 season came around and the reigning champion Warriors somehow looked better than ever. In fact, they would set the record for best record of all time, going an astonishing 73-9 in the regular season, beating the previous record by 1 win, set previously by the 1996 Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan. The Cavs did very well too, but not nearly as good as the Warriors. The two teams were both destined to face off in the finals, and face off they did.
The Warriors continued their great success and took a quick 3-1 lead in the series. It was all but over for the Cavs. My dad, the big Cleveland fan he was, had already packed it in and moved his focus fully to the baseball season. It was the end. But not to Lebron and the rest of the Cavaliers. They battled back and tied the series up at 3-3, but the final stage that lay ahead of them was nearly impossible to vanquish. They were forced to play not only the 73-9 Warriors, but they also had to play them at Golden State in the Oracle Arena, a place where the Warriors reigned supreme. The Cavs chances looked bleak, but the new, lovable, mature Lebron did not roll over. With the game coming down to the wire, he came up clutch for a game saving block in crunch time, setting up his teammate Kyrie Irving for the game-winning three-pointer. I vividly remember sitting in a Friendly’s parking lot listening to the hectic radio broadcast that was the final minutes of the 2016 NBA finals. I was nervous as hell, as I hugged the steering wheel of the car ever so tightly. Upon hearing that shot go in, I was on the verge of tears, my grip tightening on the plastic of the wheel. Hearing the final shot of the game miss, the final buzzer sound, and the announcement that the Cavaliers had won, froze me with such astonishment. I was so stunned that all I could manage to do was get out of the car, and pace around the grass beside the parking lot in disbelief. He had done it. The fairytale had been completed. Lebron went from villain to hero and brought a championship back to his kingdom. The complete transformation that I believed to be impossible had been done. Lebron did it, he proved me wrong.
People change and constantly have the ability to change. There is always room and time in your life to grow as a person. Lebron was the one who taught me that lesson. He went from being a hero, to a villain and back again. He showed me that people are constantly growing up as human beings, as well as that there is always work to be done to make ourselves better people. Lebron was able to recognize the difference between what he was supposed to do, and what he needed to do. Once he was able to do that, he returned home and brought them what they deserved: a ring and a king.