The King has returned.
In a move that sent shockwaves through the NBA, LeBron James announced that he will be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent. The four-time NBA MVP revealed his decision in an article published online by Sports Illustrated on Friday, ending his four-season stint with the Miami Heat.
"My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball," James told Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. "I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now."
James, an Akron, Ohio native, spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Cavaliers. He was selected by the Cavs with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. After reaching the NBA Finals just once in those seven seasons, James infamously announced that he would be joining the Miami Heat in July 2010 during a televised interview dubbed "The Decision." Both James' choice of team and his choice of venue for the announcement led to a virulent backlash in Ohio that included fans burning his jersey and a public repudiation from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
In Miami, James teamed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to reach the NBA Finals four times and twice win the championship. All three All-Stars opted out of their contracts after the Heat were brushed aside by the San Antonio Spurs in five games in the 2014 NBA Finals. James officially became a free agent on July 1 and anticipation grew over his impending decision. Unlike in 2010, James and his camp remained quiet, scheduled no press conference. As sports fans and media members attempted to divine deeper meaning in James' movements and actions, his own words were missing from all the chatter about his future until Sports Illustrated published the as-told-to piece by Jenkins on Friday.
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"I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work," James told Jenkins. "When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio."
The Cavaliers have failed to reach the playoffs since James' departure after the 2009-2010 season. During James' four-year stint in Miami, the Cavs ended up with the No. 1 overall selection in the NBA Draft three times. Despite the team's struggles in recent years, James' homecoming announcement was enough for sportsbook Bovada to install the Cavs as the favorite to win the NBA title in 2015.