The wound was real.
Not only the one inflicted by LeBron James on Cleveland Cavaliers fans when he skipped town in the summer of 2010 but also the gash on the head of the fan who never saw the second half of the prodigal son's return.
An ugly incident unfolded in the stands of the Quicken Loans Arena on Dec. 2, 2010, a surreal and surly night. While the middle-aged man was carried out through the back tunnels of the building, James and his new Miami Heat teammates applied a beating of a different kind.
There were anti-LeBron T-shirts and hostile, mocking signs. And there was James, walking up to the scorer's table before tipoff as if he were still part of the home team for his patented chalk toss - done this time amid a chorus of deafening boos and deliberately chosen music.
The classic piece O Fortuna blared through the Cleveland speakers: Fate – monstrous and empty, you whirling wheel, you are malevolent, well-being is vain and always fades to nothing, shadowed and veiled you plague me too; now through the game I bring my bare back to your villainy.
It seems unimaginable that James could go from that to this, yet here he is.
There is no word yet on where he will play next season. He had his one and only meeting Wednesday with Heat officials, and now the world awaits the Decision, Part II. The plan, or at least the part publicly shared, does not include more meetings with teams but does involve James consulting with family and friends.
As James well knows, that old Cleveland wound will be reopened if he sticks with the Heat. Although he can't control the endless speculation, he has controlled this process in ways that should not be overlooked. His agent, Rich Paul, included the Cavaliers among the five teams with which he spoke because that was what James wanted.
Perhaps the pain of being scorned by his home state was simply too much to bear, leaving James convinced that the only way to dump all that emotional baggage is to return to Cleveland, an unexpected bookend to his marvelous career. Perhaps he sees a chance to be the bigger man, returning despite owner Dan Gilbert's bitter Comic Sans letter read 'round the world. Perhaps it's personal, as simple as making his pregnant wife, Savannah Brinson, and two sons happy by going home.
As his personal website makes clear, he's still "Just a kid from Akron, Ohio."
But if he doesn't choose the Cavaliers, he might have a hard time going home again. Again.