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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, December 03, 2022

Column: Newfound appreciation for LeBron

Arrogant. Immature. Selfish.

These are the words I consistently used to describe LeBron James throughout his tenure in Miami. In fact, I continued to use these harsh adjectives until just a few weeks ago.

I hated Miami LeBron because of how loveable he was as Cleveland LeBron. As a kid with the Cavs, he was electric night in and night out. He symbolized every young sports fan’s wildest dreams and aspirations. He was a hometown kid, playing for his city, leaving it all out on the court every night to try and bring home a championship to Cleveland.

After reaching the NBA Finals, but losing to the Spurs in four games in the 2006-’07 season, the future appeared to be sky high for LeBron and Cleveland.

But the Cavs struggled in the following season, finishing with a mediocre 45-37 record and falling to the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs. In the next two seasons, the Cavs earned the NBA’s best record, but devastating disappointments in the playoffs overshadowed all of the regular season success.

In 2010, the Cavs were upset by the Celtics in just five games, the worst of LeBron’s shortcomings in Cleveland, and the King became a free agent.

Immediately the rumors began to circulate. Would this be the last game LeBron played in a Cavaliers uniform? Sure, it was devastating to watch him struggle in the playoffs. It felt as if he had let an entire city down after he failed to even reach the conference finals with the best record in the NBA.

There was no way he could leave his hometown team, right?

Then, he said he would announce his future plans on ESPN in “The Decision.”

There was no way he could break the hearts of all of Cleveland on national TV, right?

Yet, his arrogant self did, and this is when I began to hate LeBron. I still maintain that “The Decision” was the most arrogant act an athlete has ever done; worse than Allen Iverson’s infamous “we talkin’ bout practice” press conference, Mark McGwire’s “I’m not here to talk about the past” testimony to Congress on PEDs, and yes, even Richard Sherman’s post-game interview with Erin Andrews last year.

So, in my eyes, LeBron turned from hero to villain in an instant. I rooted against him vehemently while he was in Miami. I was physically disgusted when he finally won an NBA title.

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Then after a clearly aging, less talented Heat team fell to the Spurs in last year’s Finals, LeBron announced in a heartfelt letter to Sports Illustrated that he was coming home.

I didn’t believe what he said for a second. I assumed the only reason he was returning was simply to play on a better team. The Heat had run their course and the Cavs were young and talented. He was jumping to the stronger ship.

Then I watched his new Nike commercial. After I had recovered from the goosebumps that covered my entire body, dried my watery eyes and exhaled a soft “wow,” it all became clear to me. It’s time to love LeBron again.

In the time he was in Miami, King James grew up. He fine-tuned his game, became a better leader and learned how to perform in the playoffs. And now that he has done that, he is ready to share his success with Cleveland.

As Lebron has said, Miami was like college for him. In 2010, he just wasn’t ready to bring a championship to Cleveland. So he left, learned from some of the game’s best and prepared himself in order to accomplish what he always wanted to do: win a title for his city.

LeBron has come back for all the right reasons. He’s not doing it for himself. He’s doing it for an entire city. His homecoming is as inspirational of a story as they come in sports. And when he does win a title for Cleveland, the celebration of a city currently in a title drought of 49 years will be admired by sports fans across the country.

I’m back on your side, Lebron. I want you to win for your city. And not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven...

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