LeBron quits Miami Heat to rejoin Cleveland Cavaliers
Miami Heat star LeBron in shock return to Cleveland
NBA's biggest star LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers four years after he left his home state to join the Miami Heat.
The 29-year-old forward made the announcement in a first-person essay published in Sports Illustrated this morning (Singapore time).
Under a banner headline "I'm Coming Home", James explained his decision to return to Cleveland after leading a star-studded Miami Heat team to two NBA championships and four Eastern Conference titles.
The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player wrote: "Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from north-east Ohio.
"It's where I walked. It's where I ran. It's where I cried. It's where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up.
"I sometimes feel like I'm their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can.
"My relationship with north-east Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn't realise that four years ago. I do now."
The Heat, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers all had expressed interest in signing James, widely regarded as the best basketballer on the planet.
The frenzy over his eventual landing spot was the biggest the NBA had seen since James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all teamed up in Miami in 2010.
James, who was on the losing end of a five-game defeat by the San Antonio Spurs in last month's NBA Finals, opted out of the final two years of his contract with Miami to become a free agent who could negotiate with any team.
"These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man," James, who grew up in Ohio, said about Miami, which he regards as his "second home".
No Cleveland team have won a major professional league title in 50 years since the 1964 Browns won the National Football League crown.
That could all change with the return of James, who took an overmatched Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007 when they were swept by San Antonio.
The addition of James to a young roster featuring premier point-guard Kyrie Irving, 22, and last month's overall No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins, 19, is expected to shift the NBA's power balance and bookmakers reacted swiftly.
Cleveland, who have never won an NBA title in 44 years of existence and were 33-49 last season, were listed as 4-1 favourites to win next season's NBA title, with San Antonio rated 5-1 while Miami blew out to odds of 50-1.
James, a 10-time NBA All-Star who was drafted first overall by Cleveland in 2003, has averaged 27.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game in 11 NBA seasons.
He said he had made peace with Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert, who had called James a "deserter" for leaving Cleveland four years ago.
Said James: "I've met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We've talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I've made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?"
He said he was on a mission to win titles when he left and, now that he has done that, it's time to come home.
"My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what's most important for me is bringing one trophy back to north-east Ohio."
He stopped short of guaranteeing a title, but heartily accepted the mission.
"In north-east Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have," said James. "I'm ready to accept the challenge. I'm coming home." - Reuters.
WHAT THEY SAY
“I am shocked & disappointed... However, I will never forget what Lebron brought us for four years.”
— Miami Heat owner Micky Arison
“It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart.”
— LeBron James on rejoining Cleveland
“Welcome Home @kingjames. I am excited for the fans and people of Cleveland and Ohio.”
— Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert on Twitter