We All Owe LeBron James an Apology

I may have been wrong about LeBron James for the past four years.  In fact, I’m pretty certain that most of us owe him an apology.

As I read his reasons on why he is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers as told to Sports Illustrated, the word “redemption” came to mind.  By returning to Cleveland, I thought he’s redeeming himself for what happened four years ago when he left his hometown team to chase a championship with the Miami Heat, which had just the day before signed Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

But then it occurred to me, what sin did he commit in the first place that required redemption?

He left the Cleveland Cavaliers because he wanted to win.  And he wanted to win, not just in the small stage, but in the biggest.  And he wanted to win multiple times.  What, exactly, is wrong with wanting the pinnacle of achievements?

For sure, “The Decision” was a PR nightmare.  A 75-minute TV special dedicated to an announcement of which team he was going to play for next year seemed to epitomize all that was wrong with egotistical professional athletes.  Yet what was lost in all the firestorm afterwards was that the show raised millions for the Boys and Girls Club.  We all mocked him for the statement that “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach,” yet most of us thought that he was indeed the most talented player in the NBA.

If Lebron’s worst sin was that he wanted to win and failed to deliver that message articulately, we could–and actually do–have worse role models.

For this is a man who, despite being given tens of millions of dollars shortly after graduating from high school, has never been a subject of a scandal involving drugs, violence, guns or alcohol.  This is a man who has built a family by marrying a woman he met in high school, the mother of his two sons with a girl on the way.  This is a man who, despite the vilification he received in Cleveland after The Decision, returned home to Akron every off season to continue his work with his foundation.

LeBron says that if he could do it all over again, he would do things differently, but would still have decided to leave.  He compared his four years in Miami to a college experience that he never had.  Those who actually left home to attend college can relate when he says that those four formidable years away from home helped him become the more mature man he is today.

And what he says is all that is needed to learn about how far he has come.  In a measured, thoughtful, and emotional manner, he shows in that SI piece all the dignity that was missing four years ago.  Not even a press conference this time, he says.  Just his thoughts in his own words.  Then to getting to work.

He shows a remarkable depth of self-perspective.  Regarding the response in Cleveland after The Decision, he sympathizes because he can put himself in the shoes of the kids who idolized an athlete, who picked up and left.  Of the championships that he probably could have won had he stayed in Miami, he knows that one win for Northeast Ohio would mean more than any more in Miami.

I think LeBron always had this self-perspectiveness in him, even four years ago when he left to go to the Miami Heat.  It’s because he had that perspective that he was able to say that he needed to get away and learn what he couldn’t at home:  how to win a championship.

LeBron says he’s going back to the Cavaliers because that’s where his basketball can make the most difference.  He’s hoping that what he does on the basketball court during games and in the community at other times will make the young kids today who idolize him stay in Akron or, even better yet, leave, learn and come back, just like him.

LeBron wants to be a role model who makes the lives of people around him better, not just by making them forget their daily life by entertaining them for a couple hours a night, but by making a substantive, lasting impact in the community in which they live.

Many athletes say these things.  LeBron James is about to live it during the peak of his career.

From this day forward, I’ll be rooting for LeBron to succeed, not just for him and Northeast Ohio, but also for the ideal that his most recent decision exemplifies.

And I’d like to be the first to say I’m sorry for doing the exact opposite for the last four years.


2 Responses to “We All Owe LeBron James an Apology”

  1. 1 jon July 14, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    I generally agree. His “Decision” to leave Cleveland was classless and tacky and egotistical, and I applaud him for trying to make that right. Its always more noble to fight hard to make a poor situation into a good one than to take an easy path to a good situation, so I think he deserved some criticism. And now I think he deserves some props, although that will all disintegrate if he leaves after 1 or 2 years, as his short contract suggests is a possibility.

    • 2 joesas July 21, 2014 at 3:11 am


      I’ve read that his contract is for two years because salary cap is going to go way up around that time and he wanted the Cavs to get some flexibility. Can’t you trust him? I’m certainly now willing to give him the benefit of the doubt…

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