By: Brandon Patton
Last summer LeBron James made the decision to return home. This was after deciding four years prior to “take his talents to South Beach” and join the Miami Heat. This led to his jerseys being burned around Cleveland, Ohio as well as an unseen amount of hate in each of the 29 arenas he appeared at year-round. What made people so angry?
When LeBron James first came into the NBA in 2003, I remember being amazed. Not because of his abilities which were unreal, but because I had never before seen a high school athlete hyped by the media in such a way. As a 17 year old, he already had the nickname “King James.” LeBron’s high school games were telecast on ESPN and announcers for the games would state that because of the attendance, games had to be moved into college arenas. I remember the cameras showing NBA stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Kevin Garnett, two of the best players on the professional level, in attendance. There simply was no way this guy could live up to the unreal expectations placed upon him when he made the leap to the NBA.
Rookie of the Year
Not only did LeBron James show he could handle the pressure, but he ended up being named the 2003-2004 NBA Rookie of the Year. That award is given to the best rookie in the entire league, and not only did he win but ESPN reported “James received 508 points, including 78 of a possible 118 first-place votes, to become the first Cleveland rookie honored.” He played with his hometown team until 2010, when he decided to join forces with friends Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
Two Championships Later
LeBron went to 4 straight NBA Finals, winning 2 and losing two. There would be no more ridicule about not having what it takes to win. Once again, he had a chance to do something special. From the moment he decided to leave Cleveland, the media questioned whether he would return home. At times this seemed unthinkable, especially with his previous team owner Dan Gilbert calling him a quitter, and promising that his team (Cleveland Cavaliers) would win a ring before James did. That did not happen, but LeBron James also did the unthinkable, and decided it was best to go back home and help out his community. This brought back all of the love and then some from the fans that once adored him! Before LeBron James returned, the Cleveland Cavaliers had a record of 33-49. They were pretty bad, but the impact he’s had not only on the court but off the court is astonishing.
Home Sweet Home
This year the Cavaliers were 53-29 in the regular season and recently advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. Attendance is up more than 3,000 fans, and according to Cork Gaines from the Business Insider, “Bar owners near the arena have seen a 30-200% increase in revenue on game nights. Bartenders and waitresses that would normally be laid off until the summer are being kept on the payroll. In addition, demand for local hotel rooms are up 8.6% from the same period last year compared to the national average increase of 5.8%.” LeBron has done what he set out to do, rejuvenating and making an impact in his hometown, inspiring other athletes in all sports to take their destiny into their own hands and possibly going back to their hometown teams as well, to do the same.
I am a CBS 62/CW 50 Community Affairs Intern. I am a huge sports fan and of course you have to love your hometown teams! I currently attend Eastern Michigan University, I love dogs and my family!