LeBron James announced he is coming home, and is "ready to accept the challenge" will the Cleveland Cavaliers.
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James is coming home!
In an open essay to SI.com's Lee Jenkins, James described why moving back to Northeast Ohio and rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers in free agency was the right decision for him and his family.
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"In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given," James said. "Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I'm ready to accept the challenge. I'm coming home.
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"Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It's where I walked. It's where I ran. It's where I cried. It's where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I'm their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now."
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James left Cleveland for the Miami Heat in 2010 in a nationally televised ESPN special known as "The Decision" in order to chase down championships with his close friends, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They twice accomplished that mission, and made it to four straight NBA Finals.
Following James' decision to "Take his talents to South Beach," Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote a scathing letter criticizing the move. During the essay, James said, "I've met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We've talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I've made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?"
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After the return was made official, Gilbert tweeted: "Welcome Home @kingjames. I am excited for the fans and people of Cleveland and Ohio. No fans and people deserve a winner more than them….."
"My 8-year-old: "Daddy, does this mean I can finally wear my LeBron jersey, again?" ...Yes it does, son. Yes it does!"
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James returns to Cleveland in an effort to bring a professional sports championship to a city that has not won a title since the Browns took home the NFL crown in 1964 with a 27-0 upset win over the Baltimore Colts.
"When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two," James said. "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.
"I always believed that I'd return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn't know when. After the season, free agency wasn't even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn't going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy."
James joins a team that features a fellow All-Star MVP in point guard Kyrie Irving, as well as young talent in forward Tristan Thompson and guard Dion Waiters, all of whom he mentioned by name in the essay.
James also welcomes the opportunity to play for first-year coach David Blatt and reunite with forward Anderson Varejao, whom he described as "one of my favorite teammates."
"I'm going into a situation with a young team and a new coach," James said. "I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn't know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I'm excited to lead some of these talented young guys.
"I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I'm from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there's no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get."