LeBron: I'm going back to the Cavs

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LeBron James is heading back to Cleveland.

The four-time league MVP told SI.com on Friday that he is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard the deal is expected to be four years for the maximum of $88 million.

"My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball," James told SI.com in a first-person essay. "I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now."

For James, it marks a complete turnaround from his original free-agent decision in 2010, when he bolted Cleveland for the Miami Heat, creating a Big Three with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that went on to win two NBA titles in their four years together.

"The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys," James said. "I've talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished."

James informed Wade of his decision, sources told ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst. Bosh, who is out of the country, was informed through his agent, sources said. 

The Heat were in the mix for James again this time around. Team president Pat Riley traveled to Las Vegas to meet with James on Wednesday in an attempt to lure him back to Miami after the All-Star opted out of his contract following the team's NBA Finals loss to the  San Antonio Spurs.

But James said no to Riley and the Heat, instead choosing a Cleveland team that picked him No. 1 overall in the 2003 draft out of St. Vincent-St. Mary, where he starred as a high school player in his native Akron, Ohio.

"Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It's where I walked," James told SI.com. "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."

James spoke with Heat president Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison Friday morning on the phone before James' first-person essay was posted, sources said. ESPN.com reported incorrectly earlier that the Heat did not know of the decision until it was posted and were not expecting it. The Heat had left their meeting with James earlier this week in Las Vegas feeling good about their chances to retain him, even if it was on a short-term deal.

"I'm not having a press conference or a party," James said in his essay. "After this, it's time to get to work."

The decision certainly was cause for celebration in Cleveland, however. The Cavaliers have been mired in four losing seasons since their trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2010, James' last year with the team.

The Cavs had all but sold out of season tickets less than eight hours after James' announcement.

A team source confirmed to ESPN.com that the Cavaliers capped season-ticket sales at slightly more than 12,000 tickets Friday, leaving roughly 8,000 tickets per game to be used for group sales and ticket plans.

ESPN.com's Darren Rovell reported that the Cavaliers have confirmed they are not raising season-ticket prices in the wake of the news. The team sold $1 million in ticket sales Wednesday on speculation alone, a source told Rovell.

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