LeBron James was being heralded as the next big thing before he even finished high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio. He skipped college and went directly into the NBA and had over $100 million in endorsement contracts as a rookie playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron was immediately crowned the “King” by the Nike marketing machine before he had accomplished anything. At the tender age of 19 the world was on his shoulders and everything was expected of him… he delivered!
As a rookie he became the youngest player ever to score 40 points in an NBA game, he was named rookie of the year in the 2003-04 season and eventually led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA finals in the 2006-07 season where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in four games. Despite this he was heavily criticized by the press for not delivering a championship. The Cleveland Cavaliers made the playoffs over the next two seasons with LeBron playing heavy minutes. He was asked to play several positions including point guard during the 2009-10 season. Even with “King James” in the lineup the Cleveland Cavaliers were unable to reach the NBA finals a second time. Once again the blame was laid squarely on LeBron. He was booed by his home town crowd during a playoff game against the Boston Celtics where he only scored fifteen points. Fifteen points is a pretty good night for most NBA players but not good enough when you’ve been crowned “King James.”
By any realistic standard LeBron James had brought the Cleveland Cavaliers more success than they had experienced in decades. Despite this he was raked over the coals for his poor playoff performances. Even Michael Jordan was given a few years to develop before the pressure for a championship began to mount in Chicago. Michael Jordan was also given something LeBron didn’t get in Cleveland… Scottie Pippen. After everything LeBron James had done for Cleveland it still wasn’t enough and it would be nearly impossible to win a championship without another star in the lineup. In July of 2010 LeBron announced he was leaving Cleveland for the Miami Heat. The “Decision” made perfect sense to an objective outsider. He would be playing alongside Dwayne Wade and finally get the help he needed to solidify his legacy if he was going have one. Fans in Cleveland saw it as the ultimate betrayal and Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavs, called the move “cowardly” and “heartless.”
LeBron James went on to help the Miami Heat win back-to-back NBA championships. He even took less money so the Miami Heat could afford to pay Chris Bosch and Dwayne Wade under salary cap restrictions. The “Decision” paid off and “King James” no longer had the weight of the world on his shoulders. After four years and four consecutive NBA finals appearances for the Miami Heat LeBron James decided to go back to Ohio where he grew up. There is no doubt he never wanted to leave in the first place but the ownership, fans and press in Cleveland didn’t give him much of a choice. He’s proven he can win championships and now the pressure isn’t on LeBron James. The pressure is on Cleveland to get him the help he needs. Let’s hope the fans, press and ownership in Cleveland understand what it takes to win. Kevin Love is a good start and a sign that this time around things may be different for LeBron James in Cleveland.
About the Author of “Return of The King: LeBron James Goes Back To Cleveland”:
Trip Albagdadi is a regular guest contributor to the iM Sports Blog. His work has been featured in numerous online as well as traditional print publications.
“LeBron James in Cleveland Part 1 – Frustration” – Keith Allison via photopin cc
“LeBron Wins Back-To-Back NBA Championships in Miami” – wallyg via photopin cc
“LeBron James in Cleveland Part 2 – Feel The Love” – Erik Daniel Drost via photopin cc