LeBron James is removing his talents from Miami.
Four years after stunning the NBA world with “The Decision,” the Miami Heat forward announced an even larger revelation on SI.com Friday, perhaps destined to be called “The Redemption.”
James, 29, will return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, close to his hometown of Akron and far from the sunny beaches where he led the Heat to four NBA Finals appearances, two ending in championships.
"I’m not promising a championship," James says in the first-person essay. "I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates."
His agent met with several teams last week, including the Lakers, but Cleveland emerged the winner despite James’ sit-down Wednesday with Miami president Pat Riley.
The Cavaliers made a big push this month to bring him back, swallowing some pride and dealing part of their future.
The first step was removing from their website the passionate but bitter four-year-old letter by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, in which he called James’ decision to leave Cleveland “a shameful display of selfishness and betrayal.”
Then the Cavaliers agreed to trade versatile guard Jarrett Jack, young center Tyler Zellar and a future first-round pick to free up cap space in a three-team trade.
Miami tried to impress James, too.
After a limp five-game loss to San Antonio in the NBA Finals, the Heat agreed to contracts with role players Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger in an attempt to appease James.
Miami also made a draft-day trade for undersized but dynamic Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier, an alleged favorite of James.
The Cavaliers could suddenly become favorites in the watered-down Eastern Conference after recently signing franchise point guard Kyrie Irving to a five-year extension for $90 million.
They took dynamic Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins with the first overall pick in the draft, hold an affordable team option on hard-nosed center Anderson Varejao and also have plenty of money to chase another solid free agent.
There are also rumors that the Cavaliers are trying to trade for All-Star forward Kevin Love.
Almost a footnote, they still have last year’s top overall draft pick, underperforming power forward Anthony Bennett, just in case he develops into something.
James and Miami teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all opted out of their contracts before free agency began, each leaving more than $40 million on the table with two years remaining.
It would now be surprising if Bosh didn’t accept a maximum contract reportedly offered by Houston.
It didn’t compare to the surprise announced by James on his website. He’s back in Cleveland, the same city that once ripped down murals of him on municipal buildings and angrily burned his jersey on city streets.
Redemption has officially begun.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times