No place like home for LeBron James


The rationale for LeBron James' return to Cleveland could be found on Twitter about an hour before Lee Jenkins issued a link to his first-person account from James in Sports Illustrated.

The Washington Post then sent out a chart listing  America's 10 richest families. What struck me wasn't the amount of money. It was the hometowns. Places such as Bentonville, Arkansas. Wichita, Kansas. Racine, Wisconsin. And it didn't even include the person who has a personal connection to LeBron: Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, Nebraska.

People who had amassed incomprehensible wealth didn't rush to relocate after the first big check arrived. They didn't retreat to a private island in the Caribbean or take tax haven in Monte Carlo. They stayed in the places they knew. They couldn't escape the gravitational pull of the familiar. So before we had our answer from LeBron, we had our answer.

There were further explanations in the Sports Illustrated piece, including a response to the question of how James could reconcile with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert after Gilbert's infamous letter. "We've talked it out," James said. "Everybody makes mistakes. I've made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?"

James didn't address the issue of how he and Gilbert bridged the business aspect of their divide that was exposed during the 2011 lockout, but we can hear that later.

LeBron was preoccupied with the broader themes, of community, redemption and inspiration. And maybe we should pull back and examine the broader perspective of what this round of LeBron's free agency meant. If 2010 was about indulgence and exploring the recruiting experience he never had when he went straight from high school to the NBA draft, this time was about restraint. Only one publicly disclosed meeting, and no television show.

The medium was very much the message in this case. Maybe, just maybe, LeBron's form of announcement highlights a shift away from the everything-must-be-televised mentality that cultivated The Decision. I never blamed LeBron for going on TV to pick Miami. He has had cameras in his face since adolescence. He grew up in the 1990s, the age of "The Real World" and televised court trials. He'd seen viewers flock to broadcasts of people choosing a spouse from a group they'd just met a few weeks earlier.

But we know LeBron has gained an appreciation for the power of the written word. Remember how he read books in the locker room during the playoffs on the way to the 2012 championship? He'd also seen the positive response when Brittney Griner and Jason Collins announced their sexuality through first-person stories. He realized that written stories offer better control of his message than television specials that can be reduced to a single sound bite.

LeBron was on camera for 11 minutes during The Decision, but the only part anyone remembers is "This fall, I'm going to take my talents to South Beach."

They didn't even hear the "Man, this is tough" that preceded it, which indicated just how difficult it was for him to leave Ohio.

They don't remember his reason for choosing Miami that was perfectly valid and even prophetic: "The best opportunity for me to win."

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