LeBron James has shocked the world, again! Around 12:30 pm the internet exploded with the story that LeBron James would return to the place he publicly abandon- his basketball home, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his native East Akron Ohio. 4 years ago LeBron James announced on national television that he would be taking his talents to South Beach to join the Miami Heat. During his time in Miami he became a two time champion and Finals MVP. In his essay in Sports Illustrated LeBron James likened his stay with the Heat to going to college. Although his Senior year at Miami Heat University did not end with a Championship ring to add to his legacy it ended with the gift of enlightenment.
LeBron expresses in the article that his decision to rejoin the Cavaliers was bigger than basketball. He began to think about how his life would be like raising his two boys and soon to be daughter in his home state of Ohio. It was about providing hope and inspiration to kids from the local community. Much like the rest of the Midwest, Cleveland’s economy has been decimated by the economic down turn and has not fully recovered. It has been no secret that LeBron’s heart was always in East Akron Ohio. He has invested heavily in his High School alma mater, his charities, and most importantly his career in Ohio.
LeBron’s essay illustrates that grudges are not meant to be held, people can grow, and that at some point there is a time of deep reflection that we all will face in our lives that will force us to question our priorities and values. LeBron has always embraced being a role model and this essay serves as beautiful testimony to the phases of life that that will hopefully resonate with his young fans. Considering his tumultuous departure, no one ever thought he could redeem himself. Is all forgiven? James’ essay was full of emotional depth, contemplative thought, and social responsibility -it is safe to say that LeBron has redeemed himself and that his a role model status has been elevated especially to kids in East Akron, Ohio. Whether he wins a championship or not Cleveland has forgiven their native son. Well done, LeBron.
There’s another element that makes this already shocking and compelling story even more interesting, the role of the Midwest. As a fellow Midwesterner (being from Chicago) we tend to have an intense connection to our homegrown sports hero more than other places. Midwesterners tend to operate with a chip on our shoulders. There is a subtle or some might argue not subtle resentment people in the Midwest have towards bigger “sexier” cities. There is a attitude of ‘who do you think you are’ towards people that live and more importantly boast about living on the East or West coast, or a place like Miami. Midwesterners pride themselves as being loyal, real, and having a tight close nit circle; despising anything that is too loud and flagrantly superficial. So when LeBron James left the Midwest to go to a bigger city it validated the inferiority complex that many Midwesterners have, we’re not good enough for you? What makes ‘them’ so much better? You can stay here and make it big, why do have to leave?
As an aside, being from Chicago and now living in New York I can certainly understand leaving the Midwest to go experience the bright lights and the big city of the East coast. I’m elated that LeBron that went back to his Midwestern roots. The inspiration of his decision to leave the glamorous city of Miami to go to a cold, economically fragile, and “boring” city and state that is Cleveland, Ohio is immeasurable. LeBron has never shied away from assuming the responsibility of his team and his community; this move validates his willingness and dedication to bring his long suffering community a championship and a reason to be proud. Celebrate well tonight, Cleveland. In the eyes of the best player in the world, you’re good enough.