A story of growth

LeBron James left Cleveland in a very dramatic, public way, on a TV show he didn’t have to do, which left a bad feeling on the part of a lot of Clevelanders and Cavaliers fans four years ago.

Indeed, the departure was of such a dramatic nature that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert retorted with a very public airing of his feelings toward the star, publishing a letter that called James a coward.

It was for those lapses of adult conduct, along with the track record of 50 years without a major sporting championship, that Clevelanders refused to accept wholly the thought at mid-season when rumors began to swirl of a LeBron return.

When it happened last week, it was as if all was forgiven by most fans. King James jerseys in the wine-and-gold came out of closets and drawers.

It was a long road from LeBron’s “The Decision” TV show and the Dan Gilbert published tirade to last week’s triumphal return of the king of professional basketball to his Northeast Ohio home.

The story is, at the very least, a public relations dream and at its best, one of human growth.

James announced his decision amid days of speculation this time in his own words to Sports Illustrated. In an essay, he described knowing he made mistakes in how he departed for Florida, but was man enough to say he’d still have left. He said he considers the four years in Florida sort of like time away at college, which most guys who go to college instead of heading from their mom’s home directly into the multimillionaire world of NBA stars get to do. James said he realizes now the value of being a star at home, of how much he means to the people of the Cleveland region and how much they mean to him. And that statement was couched in wanting to continue to help the people of Cleveland, which James already does through his charitable foundation.

Gilbert, for his part, met privately with James and the two came to a mutual agreement on having made mistakes, having handled themselves poorly during LeBron’s previous departure and vowing to make up for his regret at having drafted “The Letter” in response to “The Decision.”

That both men now stand to make millions of dollars together again is a kind of unspoken subtext, but again, at its best, the LeBron James return is a good example of how men, even men who are multimillionaires in the world of sports, can grow, change and set an example of how to make up for past wrongs.

It remains to be seen how all of this will play out in two years when James’ contract expires, though James indicates he will stay put.

It wasn’t all that long ago that we were critical here of the potential for James to turn into yet another flash-in-the-pan, troubled young talented athlete. To his lasting credit, he’s kept his reputation as stellar as his on-court abilities, combined with what is by all accounts, the kind of work ethic one would expect from a son of Akron.

Here’s to greatness continuing to grow on and off the court in Cleveland.