Welcome back, LeBron. Welcome back to the building you lost one regular season game that you played in in during the 08-09 season. Welcome back to the building where you hit what could have been a game-winning and-1 over Dwight Howard in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, only to watch Rashard Lewis hit a three on the next possession. Welcome back to the building where you hit a game-winner in the very next game and got a local news crew to do this. The chances of you seeing that kind of reaction in Miami are about the same as the chances of seeing a sub-60 degree weather forecast down there.
Welcome back to the building with the best fans in the Eastern Conference, if not the entire league. Have fun being on their bad side — maybe now you’ll understand why the Cavs were all but unbeatable at home for the past two regular seasons.
Welcome back to the place where thousands of people lost their collective s**t every time they heard “From St. Vincent/St. Mary’s…IN AKRON, OHIO…” each and every time they heard it. I suppose the “…WHICH IS A DIFFERENT CITY THAN CLEVELAND” was supposed to be an implied disclaimer.
Welcome back to the Q. Last time you were here, you went 3-14 in a 32-point loss. Maybe the booing will motivate you to do better this time. I am fairly confident that you will not always be hated the way you are now. You will probably be loved someday. But you will never be loved with the kind of passion that Cleveland hates you with now. I am fairly confident of this. You may as well embrace that, because it’s far too late to try and change it.
Welcome back to the city that you never thought would feel this way about you. You gave it the first seven years of your professional career, some of the best basketball that’s ever been played, a finals appearance, and seven years of hope. You managed to throw away all that good will in an hour. After seven years, seven words — “and this is very hard for me…” just weren’t quite enough. I’m sure a part of you is confused. I’m sure a part of you is hurt. I’m sure a part of you is angry. I doubt you’ll get much sympathy for any of that in Cleveland.
You asked the city of Cleveland, and the national public, what you should do. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but you know what I want you to do? Win. I want to see you become the player you’re capable of becoming. I want to see you integrate yourself with Wade and Bosh instead of being frustrated that they won’t adapt to your game. I want to see you MOVE WITHOUT THE FREAKING BALL. I want to see you attack the basket the way you did in Cleveland instead of deferring and trying to prove a point. I want you to prove that you can be a team player instead of just being a franchise player.
I want you to prove that even though you left the Cavs in the wrong manner, you left for the right reasons. Right now, it looks like you took the “play” part of the “chance to play with Wade and Bosh” thing way too seriously. I want you to show — not tell, show — that the decision to leave Cleveland for Miami, as tough as it was, was an opportunity you couldn’t pass up. I want you to show that you left to chase greatness, not fame or notoriety. I have enough friends and colleagues. I never needed to know that you were a great guy. I followed you because I knew you had the potential to be the greatest to ever pick up a basketball, and hoped you were committed to that goal.
I want you to show that I wasn’t wrong about you all these years. Yes, I mostly rooted for you because you were wearing a Cavaliers jersey, but I also came to believe in you over those seven years. If I rooted for you to fail or, worse, blow out an ACL, that would make me a hypocrite, and isn’t that what everyone who hates you is accusing you of being?
I want you to show that you’re ready to be a great player and made your decision for a reason, starting on December 3rd. If you want to keep making risky passes, passing to your teammates for 18-footers instead of attacking the basket, watching plays develop when you don’t have the ball instead of moving without it, and letting a city that knows how to support its team savor a win over a team that you don’t know how to play for on Thursday, I wouldn’t mind in the slightest.