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LeBron's Final Chapter: A Win For Cleveland And Miami

Garrett Schwartz |
November 4, 2014 | 8:46 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Commercials on commercials. The powder toss. #23. Coming home. The King reclaims his true throne.

Through the first week of the NBA season, it’s been all LeBron.  

The media circus surrounding LeBron James’s return to Cleveland has been nothing short of a spectacle.  And with all the attention and buzz surrounding “The Return,” it’s remarkably easy to forget the past.

It was only four years ago that LeBron James made the infamous “Decision” on ESPN, triggering a series of cataclysmic events in the city of Cleveland.  #23 jerseys were burned in the streets, Dan Gilbert verbally defiled James and promised his city a championship before “the self-titled former ‘King’ wins one”, and the pulse of Northeastern Ohio was put to bed with the departure of their homegrown hero.  

But only four years later, LeBron’s case of amnesia was just enough to make his city's full-on assault a thing of the past and his tenure in Miami very much a blur, passing in the blink of an eye.

When LeBron James preached to the city of Miami, “not 4… not 5… not 6… not 7,” Heat fans had expected a dynasty and a legend in James that was ready to cement his legacy in South Beach. Pat Riley put together arguably the best trio in NBA history (Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and James) to deliver two NBA titles in four Finals appearances.

But if you thought “the Decision” and the “Big 3 Era” in Miami were big, LeBron’s second chapter in Cleveland has blown it out of the water.  And it's only been a week.

Forget that Cleveland’s “Big 3” of Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and the King might top the “Big 3” that won multiple titles in Miami, and the fact that virtually every NBA player in the league is salivating at the thought of playing alongside LeBron with the Cavaliers.  

Look beyond basketball for just a minute, as LeBron urged in his Sports Illustrated letter announcing his return back to Cleveland.

In the Cavaliers' home opener last week, a game that LeBron deemed as "one of the biggest sporting events that's up there ever,” NBA fans around the country saw why James and his return to Cleveland are indeed bigger than basketball.  Chills were sent down the spine of a national audience as Lebron’s Nike “Together” commercial aired for millions to see. What he means to the hard-working, communal, blue-collar city of Cleveland means far more than basketball. LeBron is the heartbeat of the city - its people, its economy and its culture.

SEE ALSO: USC In The NBA: 2014-15 Outlook

Heat fans have taken LeBron’s departure with a grain of salt, getting a taste of what Cavalier fans endured just a few seasons ago. With the national spotlight shifting away from Miami, the Heat were hard pressed to muster some kind of a counterattack to the party in Cleveland.

And what was their response?  The branding of “Heat Nation”.

Now what the hell is “Heat Nation”? By any means, Miami is not a city that has been defined by a loyal fanbase. Where were the Miami loyals after Dan Marino left the Dolphins? Where were they when the Marlins brought home two World Series rings in their first decade of existence? Where was "Heat Nation" for the years before the “Big 3 Era", when Shaquille O’Neal left the team in shambles following a title season?

“Heat Nation” is Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh deciding to return to Miami, embracing the challenge to win another title despite the unbelievably large hurdle created with LeBron’s departure. Heat fans and the city of Miami have seemed to embrace the LeBron-less team and have finally bought into the idea of loyalty, building off the reputation as the “toughest, meanest, most disliked team in the NBA.”

Now call me crazy, but is it possible that LeBron’s return to Cleveland could be better for both the cities of Cleveland AND Miami?

Wade and Bosh take the lead with post-LeBron Heat. (Keith Allison/ Flickr)
Wade and Bosh take the lead with post-LeBron Heat. (Keith Allison/ Flickr)
As both Wade and Bosh have publicly admitted before the current season, the "Big 3 Era" in Miami wasn’t always fun. The burden of sky-high expectations of championships every single season can wear down the morale of any franchise. 

Remember the days when LeBron used to smile in Cleveland? When he used to do those ridiculous, fun pregame rituals? I don’t think the guy smiled once in Miami… Well, besides the two times he won the NBA finals.

Anyway, the story lines are there:

LeBron James, the Messiah, brings life back to the city of Cleveland in an attempt to finally deliver a championship to his home state, alongside Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

Chris Bosh, who had spent the last few seasons third-wheeling in Miami, has a chance to return to his alpha, dominant form as a leader on a playoff-bound team this season.

Dwyane Wade, the Miami loyalist and face of the franchise, tries to stay healthy enough to bring the Heat back to the promised land, as he was able to do even before LeBron ever came to South Beach.

LeBron is back with the Cavs, and the city of Cleveland is together and revitalized.

For the Heat, lower expectations have filled the void LeBron left, but the Miami fan base has shown signs of pride and resiliency like never before.

You see, the NBA brings fans and people from all different backgrounds together in an unprecedented fashion. Basketball transcends the court. It defines a city.

Contact Garrett Schwartz via email or follow him on Twitter.



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