Have you heard? LeBron James is going back to Cleveland. I’m joking, of course. Unless you’ve been, as the saying goes, living in a cave, you can’t help but be aware that basketball star LeBron has chosen to return to Cleveland. This was a big, big deal when it was announced Friday, so much so that by the end of the day I was ready to scream “Enough, already.”
The Backstory: James grew up in Akron, part of the area called Northeast Ohio that also includes Cleveland. He was, apparently, the best high school player in the country and instead of going to college, he jumped directly to the pros, where he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played for the Cavs for seven years and was considered not just a great player but a hometown hero. Then, in 2010, as a free agent, he chose to leave Cleveland to play for the Miami Heat, saying “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” This was not a popular decision, to put it mildly, and James was excoriated by Cleveland fans, sports reporters and bloggers, fellow pro players and most famously, by the owner of the Cleveland Cavs.
The Letter: Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was so angry at James that he published an open letter to fans on the Cavs’ website and it’s a doozy, describing James and his decision as narcissistic, a cowardly betrayal, a shameful display of selfishness and a heartless, callous action. Yikes. Gilbert also promised this: “I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled ‘King’ wins one. You can take it to the bank.” (One of the biggest clues that James was coming back happened the previous Sunday, when the Cavs deleted the letter from their website.)
The Miami Years: So what happened? In the four years he played for Miami, James led the Heat to the NBA finals four times, won the championship twice and this year, lost to the San Antonio Spurs. Cleveland won zero championships during that time. Now once again a free agent, James is returning to Cleveland where he will once again work for Dan Gilbert and play for the Cavs.
The Reconciliation: All appears to be forgiven. James and Gilbert have kissed and made up, figuratively speaking, with James acknowledging that he made mistakes and Gilbert saying they had five great years together blighted by just one terrible night. Oddsmakers are calling Cleveland the team to beat next year. With Johnny Manziel drafted by the Cleveland Browns and the Republicans choosing Cleveland for their 2016 convention, it’s moonlight and roses in Cleveland right now.
The Lessons: Screw ups, even big ones, can be recovered from. Seeing the ecstatic joy of Cleveland fans at the return of the prodigal son, it’s easy to forget that four years ago, James was one of the most unpopular athletes in the country. Team owners, like jilted lovers and rejected job seekers, should think twice before publishing their “screw you” missives for all the world to see. In particular, don’t “guarantee” something that almost certainly won’t happen. Circumstances change, people mature and learn from their mistakes, a better outcome down the road is almost always possible.
Kimberly Hanes is a writer with a passionate love for words and ideas and extensive experience in business communications and event planning.
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