Lebron James is undeniably the most important asset to The Cleveland Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland. Cleveland is a city that’s struggled in every professional sport, suffering a multi-year reoccurring championship drought, but James brings hope.
James is no stranger to the city; he grew up just a short drive away from Cleveland and was deemed “the chosen one” as a high school player. Bypassing college, James instantly became one of the best players in the NBA when he was drafted by the Cavaliers, and with it, brought immense hope to a city that’s never seen an NBA championship.
It was something of a lucky miracle when James was drafted to the Cavaliers; Cleveland wasn’t supposed to win the draft lottery but came up with the first overall pick of the year. A team that could have been described as one of the worst in the NBA for years was blessed with a player who could do it all; James averaged 21 points, six assists, and six rebounds in his rookie season, and has averaged 25 points, seven assists, and six rebounds in his overall career.
The NBA has never seen an athlete like James. There have been players who have been faster than him and bigger than him, but none of them have been able to combine every asset as he has. He is undeniably fast, athletic, strong, and one of the smartest players in the NBA.
Seven years went by with the Cavaliers, and Cleveland fans loved and worshiped James. Sure, the team fell short year after year in bringing a championship, but they were competing, and that was better than it had been for a while. Cavs management could never put the right group of guys around James to help him get the job done. After his seventh season in Cleveland, James had a big decision to make, and ultimately did the unthinkable in the minds of Cleveland fans: James left Cleveland to join the Miami Heat.
The city of Cleveland was in shock and couldn’t believe that their hope was taken away from them. Fans were overwhelmed with emotion, some uncontrollably crying, others infuriated, burning James jerseys in spite of his decision. It was as if the life was sucked out of the city when he decided to leave.
“How could he do this to us?” was the question every Cleveland fan was asking, but the truth is James made a smart decision for himself. The team he had in Cleveland wasn’t built to win championships, while the team in Miami was.
James gave four years, four championship appearances, two MVP’s, and two championships to the city of Miami. The team dominated, some analysts wondering if this was one of the greatest teams in all of NBA history.
For Cleveland fans, those four years seemed like an eternity. Then, James finally decided to come back home. Many people who lost respect for James, saying that he took the easy way out by going to Miami instead of toughing it out in Cleveland, regained respect for him when he returned. The city of Cleveland welcomed him back with open arms.
Hope was restored on the court and in the city; James himself means so much to the city, even beyond basketball. The economy in Cleveland is greatly impacted by James; when he announced his return, season ticket sales sold out in hours. Every sold-out game means money spent on parking, food, drinks, and the team merchandise. Bars and restaurants close to Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavaliers play, have seen a direct increase in attendance since James returned to Cleveland. Local bars have reported that revenues of game nights have increased up to 200% on game nights since he returned to the team. He brings excitement and revenue to an area that otherwise would struggle.
Not only does he bring revenue to local bars and restaurants, but he increases exposure for the team. After he left, the Cavaliers were rarely on national television, but upon his return, they had 30 nationally televised games.
The team struggled during those four seasons without him, not even coming close to sniffing the playoffs; with his return they were instant championship contenders. Many of the games in that four-year span of no James were empty compared to the packed houses every night before he left and after his return. It’s almost a guarantee that with James, his team will make the playoffs.
How is it that one man can do so much for a city? No player on the Cleveland Browns has had this effect, nor a player on the Cleveland Indians. This points to one thing: James is a once-in-a-lifetime player and person.
Not many people would willingly leave Miami to go to Cleveland. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah expressed this sentiment when he stated, “What’s so good about Cleveland?”
It’s a valid question, and one that many people struggle to answer. I’m from Cleveland, and I would be the first to tell you I would rather live in South Beach than Cleveland. But deep down, it’s obvious that the city means just as much to James as he means to the city.
From the moment he was born, James was destined to be a great basketball player. He was destined to bring hope to a sports city that has seen little to no success. James has not delivered the championship to the city yet, but he has delivered hope. The Cavaliers are on the cusp of winning a championship and every fan in the city is waiting desperately for that moment.
James leaving and returning seemed somewhat cliché, like a scene out of a movie. It’s like the old saying: if you love something, you must set it free, and if it returns it was really meant to be. Those long, tough four years helped a lot in the long run. James has matured and learned a lot about the game of basketball in his time away from the Cavaliers.
He has received two titles and learned what it felt like to be a champion. The Cavaliers have been able to develop young talent as well as gather veteran assets that have helped setup the star-studded team they have now. They are seemingly locked-in to make it to the Eastern Conference finals every year, and more likely than not make it the NBA finals with little resistance.
Many Cavaliers fans absolutely despised James for making the decision to leave, but it’s not that simple. Fans felt like he belonged to them, and that something like that would only happen to Cleveland. It was tough for fans alike, but now it all seems worth it. The Cavaliers are one of the frontrunners to win the title this upcoming season .
It’s clear to see that Lebron James means so much to a city that has been hopeless since 1964, which is the last time a team in Cleveland won a championship. Cleveland sports have seen their fair share of curses and doom over the years. The original acquisition of James and the reacquisition of him during the last off-season has given the city the one thing that it needed so desperately: hope.