Most people feel that LeBron James choosing to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers was the right thing to do. LeBron acknowledged that he made a mistake with the way “The Decision” was handled and said he always believed he would finish his career in Cleveland. While the same fans who burned his jersey four years ago are now crying tears of joy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar doesn’t believe LeBron’s homecoming will be the fairytale ending everyone envisions.
In an essay he wrote for TIME Magazine, Abdul-Jabbar referred to Cleveland as the “betrayed spouse” and compared LeBron to a husband who leaves his wife for a younger, more attractive woman. Kareem cautioned that LeBron’s “home” has changed in his absence and is now filled with people he hurt.
To some skeptical residents, LeBron’s return to Cleveland is less that of the prodigal son’s triumphant return home than the straying husband who abandoned his longtime partner to chase a younger, hotter, firmer slice having second thoughts. Having realized he traded a deep love for a sweaty romp, he’s coming home with a bouquet of roses in one hand and a diamond bracelet in the other, begging forgiveness for his foolish mistake of lustful youth.
We’re still talking about basketball, right? That seems a bit dramatic to me. Personally, I think LeBron’s return will go as well as the Cavs play. If he wins a championship within a few years, he will be one of the most unique heroes in professional sports history. If not, he’ll be the guy who won rings but could never get it done for his home state.
Still, Abdul-Jabbar kept the romantic relationship metaphors rolling.
When LeBron left Cleveland he celebrated it as the Exodus from Egypt and enslavement, and that arrogance left a bitter taste in his fans’ mouths. It was like showing up at a party with his new girlfriend when he knew his ex would be there. Tacky. Even his return to Cleveland might have been seen as more from the heart, as he states in his essay, if it had just been announced as a fait accompli instead of the press and fans waiting in anticipation for the word to come down from the mountain inscribed on tablets.
Kareem did praise LeBron for his sincerity, but his overall point was that James won’t be going home to the “home he once knew.” While that may be true, we can’t think of a better storyline in the middle of LeBron’s career.