There was shock and surprise as Twitter blew up around 12:30 p.m. EDT on Friday as LeBron James announced his much-awaited decision via Sports Illustrated "I'm Coming Home."
I was not surprised at all. I totally understood. Where you grew up is part of your soul. A piece of you is always there. You return to your roots one way or another. LeBron James is returning to Cleveland in a big way.
Andre Knott of WTAM in Cleveland, the Cavaliers flagship station, has covered LeBron since his high school days and attended the same high school. Knott told my Sacramento, CA news radio station KFBK the main thing he kept hearing from people recently is that Lebron and his wife, Savannah, both natives of Akron, wanted to come home.
"They wanted their kids to go to the same schools they went to," Knott said. "They're from northeast Ohio. When they got down to Miami they realized it was a different way of life a little bit. They want their kids to grow up the same way they did."
I understand completely. I grew up in a cramped three-family house in the tiny, blue-collar town of Wallington, New Jersey. Both my parents were factory workers who spent their free time playing sports with their kids and instilling values. My move to Los Angeles was a culture shock at first with its emphasis on wealth. I love California, as Lebron must have loved his beachfront mansion in Miami, but part of your heart will always be where you grew up. Lebron was raised in inner city Akron by a single Mom. In his words from his Sports Illustrated essay, it was in Akron where he first walked, ran, cried and bled.
Dr. Paul Salitsky teaches sports psychology at the University of California, Davis. He said Lebron's personal and heartfelt essay in Sports Illustrated is "an interesting display of maturity."
"He's grown up. The way he talked about what was important to him and kind of displayed a maturity I haven't seen from him previously," Salitsky said.
Knott told the story of Lebron's high school librarian who predicted three years ago King James would return to Cleveland because...
"He's a people pleaser," Knott said. "He wants to please the people who mean the most to him."
"I really think this is really a decision from the heart."