LeBron James

This Feb. 23, 2010, file photo, shows forward LeBron James during an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Hornets in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

Who says you can never go home again?

Departing Cleveland amid a promotional stunt to announce his relocation to Miami four years ago, few believed that James would be able to return to the Cavaliers, let alone be greeted with a mass celebration. But the unthinkable has happened, and the former teenage prodigy once dubbed “The Chosen One” will return to his home state of Ohio with a chance to make history.

Social media has changed sports dramatically, and the viral hate that James faced after his “decision” TV special in 2010 was enough to crack even the hardest of shells. It came from comments posted on ESPN’s Web site, to remarks made on Twitter, to consistent bashing on Facebook. On top of it all were the images of Cavs fans burning their James jerseys, and every sports pundit had an opinion on James’ choice.

The world may never see another team as vehemently hated as the 2010-2011 Miami Heat, but funny things happen when you win championships: the world bows down to you. With the conclusion of James’ Miami sabbatical all has been forgiven and, for his part, James departs Miami with two championship rings.

In his second act in Cleveland, he’ll play the savior once again. The man who was originally expected to bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers faces the same expectations, but now as a wiser and more mature player. James is writing his own novel, going from the media-hyped amateur career to the No. 1 pick chosen by his hometown team. A successful run with the Cavs didn’t garner any NBA titles but did net him two MVP trophies. A four-year stint as part of the most alluring NBA team that free agency ever assembled earned him two championships and two more MVP awards. Should James win another title, the first for Cleveland in any sport in five decades, what story would be better than the LeBron James story?

The fact that James chose a Cavs team stocked full of young, inexperienced players and led by a first-time head coach over the more established Heat and the city of Miami says a lot. Perhaps it’s an even bolder statement than his decision to leave for Miami four years ago. His original relocation to Miami was clearly a business move. This time, it’s about love. James isn’t without his flaws; in the past, he’s come across at times as arrogant, pompous and self-absorbed. But to his credit, he’s never been in legal trouble, never had a report of drug abuse and has never assaulted or openly cheated on his wife, Savannah James. Frankly, he’s been a model athlete and citizen in an age where star players can run amok and be out of jail by sunrise. If there is any megastar athlete that should be hard to form a grudge against, it’s James.

It’s hard not to salute James for his return to Cleveland and even harder now to blame him for leaving in the first place. He wanted rings to validate his legacy and he sought out the best possible way to obtain them. He didn’t jet to Miami for the nightlife and the glitz, but for business purposes. James returns much more respected around the league and, ironically, more humble despite his success.

He’s not finished writing his story. It’s a story with so many twists, turns and subplots that; should he obtain a title for the championship-starved state of Ohio, it feels his story would be perfect for Hollywood.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO