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Danny Cunningham Column: A LeBron James return to Cleveland doesn't seem far-fetched after NBA All-Star Weekend

After the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend in Cleveland, a reunion between LeBron James and the Cavaliers seems feasible.

CLEVELAND — On Sunday night, LeBron James posted up in the short corner on the right side of the court, received a pass, and calmly knocked down a fadeaway jumper. It was something he’s done hundreds of times throughout his career. 

This time, it didn’t feel the same as the hundreds of other times it has happened before. It was a moment that felt special to those in the building. It capped off a homecoming weekend for James in the best possible way, by winning the All-Star Game.

RELATED: More NBA All-Star Game coverage from WKYC

The weekend as a whole brought a number of different headlines surrounding James and the Northeast Ohio area he grew up in. He touched on a number of different things at his Saturday press conference and told Jason Lloyd of The Athletic that he wouldn't rule out a return one day to the Cavaliers while also saying he plans to finish his career by playing with his eldest son, 17-year-old Bronny James, who is currently a junior in high school at Sierra Canyon out in California.

Of course, everything that happened this past weekend doesn’t mean James is going to return for a third stint with the Cavaliers. And it’s worth noting that it takes two to tango. It’s a complex thought exercise that isn’t nearly as simple as it was back in 2014 when James left Miami to come back home. But it also isn’t nearly as farfetched as it seemed 12 months ago.

Back then, the Cavaliers were in the midst of the worst four-year run in the NBA, never winning more than 33 games while James was in Miami. The hope the Cavaliers had back then was being able to bring James home.

Now, the team is in a much different position, already having 35 wins at the time of the All-Star break, a magic number of 23 -- ironically -- to clinch a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference, a pair of All-Stars in Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, and a third player in Evan Mobley that very well may just be the team’s best player a year from now.

James, 37, is in the midst of an unprecedented season for someone of his age and amount of service time in the NBA. He certainly seems disgruntled by the state of his current team, the Los Angeles Lakers. While the Lakers are less than 18 months removed from winning an NBA title, it also couldn’t feel further away. They’re currently sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference, and the inaction by the team at the recent NBA Trade Deadline could be a big cause to all of the noise that Jame let loose this past weekend.

It’s become clear the Lakers are on thin ice, because that’s the way James operates -- especially while he’s still playing at a level this high.

From the outside, it appears that a few things are true: James is upset with the way things have gone over the last season and a half with the Lakers, even if he’s partially responsible; he’s cognizant of his eventual basketball mortality; he now, like he always has, has a wandering eye, which Cleveland has caught. Again.

James has had the plan, which he has previously vocalized, to one day hand over the reigns to whichever franchise he is on to its next franchise player. It was supposed to be Kyrie Irving before things went sideways in Cleveland. Next, it was going to be Anthony Davis, but Davis has struggled to stay on the floor due to injuries with the exception of 2020 and hasn’t quite reached the level of play expected of him while he’s been playing. When those things are paired with James’ prime seemingly extending on forever, it’s fair to wonder if James is searching for the next superstar that he could potentially hand things over to.

That, when combined with his history in Northeast Ohio, could be exactly what has caught James’ eye. The Cavaliers have the next candidate for that scenario in Mobley, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that Garland, a budding star in his own right, is represented by the same agency as James.

This may not be something the Cavaliers pursue, but it’s something that has to at least be on the radar, because James put it out there. A return to Cleveland wouldn’t have the same on-court significance that it did once upon a time for the Cavaliers, but the team is in a position now to make it feel just as special.

James looked like he felt at home on Sunday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse because, well, he was at home. Even if it’s not technically his home arena right now, it’s always a place that will feel like it, and it may even be one day again.

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