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Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

LeBron James: Cleveland's prodigal son?

Compiled by Brittany Binowski, For the Deseret News

Published: Fri, July 11 6:00 p.m. MDT

 Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) stands at mid-court as the Cavaliers defeat Utah, 102-97, on Saturday.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) stands at mid-court as the Cavaliers defeat Utah, 102-97, on Saturday.

(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

There once was a man who had two sons and divided his property between them. But the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.

So begins "The Parable of the Prodigal Son," which bears a distinct resemblance to LeBron James' recent decision to return home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, after spending years of his career "squandering his wealth in wild living" (or perhaps, building his wealth in wild living) with the Miami Heat.

In a recent letter about his decision to return home to the Cavs published in Sports Illustrated, he writes, "Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son."

Despite these deeply held family ties, however, he still left in 2010, to build his career and success with the Miami Heat. Now — four years later — he's back.

However, his decision to return may not be easy. When he left Cleveland, fans burned his jerseys, trashed his memorabilia and defiled his name in public.

"On the night of his televised decision, fans burned replicas of his jersey and tossed memorabilia in dumpsters," Scott Cacciola wrote in the New York Times. "Dan Gilbert, the Cavaliers’ owner, posted a vitriolic letter to the city on the team’s website in which he referred to James as 'our former hero' and described his move to Miami as a 'cowardly betrayal.'"

Yet, this time around, the Cleveland Cavaliers, under new coach, David Blatt, are taking him in again, despite his decision to leave just years earlier.

A poll on Cleveland.com covering Northeast Ohio shows that 71.23 percent of people polled would like LeBron to rejoin the Cavs.

"I definitely want LeBron back because that would be the key to get us to the next level," said fan Roger Gallo to Cleveland.com. "He's obviously the best player in the world, and we can win a championship with him."

But the resemblance to "The Parable of the Prodigal Son" may break down here. In the Biblical parable, the son who had left comes back in shambles, with no money to his name and no success. LeBron now comes back with multiple championship wins under his belt, and a few high-profile friends.

"The 29-year-old went to Miami, won two titles and repaired his reputation," Jeff Zillgitt and Sam Amick write for USA Today Sports. "He joined friends and fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in forming a historic trio, but the Big 3 lasted only four years. He is a four-time MVP, two-time Finals MVP and Hall of Fame-bound superstar."

Still LeBron shows remorse.

At the end of his letter explaining his decision, he writes, "In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have."

But, I'm not so sure that's true. The leadership of the Cleveland Cavaliers have accepted LeBron back to the team, although not necessarily for all of his previous actions.

The chance that he may leave again like he once did still stands. But for now the team leaders seem to have the grace to accept LeBron for the person he is and has become while he spent his years away with the Miami Heat — for better or for worse.

Brittany Binowski is a senior web producer for Deseret National. You may contact her at bbinowski@deseretdigital.com or tweet her online @binowski.

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1. samuel h wiscomb
Sun Lakes, AZ,
July 11, 2014

Yes, Lebron os good. But, one good player doth not a championship team make. Let us hope he becomes more of a team player than his past attitude hath oft displayed

2. eagle
Provo, UT,
July 11, 2014

samuel h wiscomb:

Lebron is a team player. Not only does he score, he rebounds, assists and is considered one of the best defensive players in the league. He is also highly coachable and respectful of his teammates and his coaches. He has been to the finals four straight years with two rings. He went to the finals another two times. Not sure what else he needs to prove exactly. No player does it alone, and certainly no player can win titles without being a "team player" of some sort, even Lebron.

3. Brucemax
Provo, UT,
July 11, 2014

I second what eagle said. You don't average 6.9 assists per game in your career as a non-team player. A non-team player (who also happens to be the best player in the world right now) wouldn't take a pay cut over several years in order to allow his team to sign better players and allow his teammates to get paid more. Fun fact: Lebron has never been the highest paid player on his team.
Some may think that LeBron trying to "take over" games (and often succeeding) is selfishness. However, his coaches realize he is the best there is and give him the green light to take as many shots as he wants. Most are unfamiliar with this concept as they have never been the best in a league, let alone the best in a single game, and have never had anyone on their team this talented.
Anyway, wasn't LeBron recently criticized after a close playoff game for passing to Bosh for a corner three instead of taking a shot himself? He made the right play that gave his team the best look. He's absolutely a team player.

4. J-TX
Allen, TX,
July 12, 2014

The Cavaliers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets, the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers were the only teams he considered besides Miami. But he later said he wouldn't leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland.

Dude, it's a cakewalk to get to the Eastern Conference Finals the last 10 years.

The Meat wouldn't have been seeded over 4 or 5 in the West, where the best teams play.

What does he have to prove? I don't know, that he can play with the big boys day in and day out?

I feel a little sorry for Cleveland. If he were sincere, he would have signed a 9 or 10 year deal. As it is, we don't know how long his contract is, but I'll bet he has an option of turning tail in 2 years - and will. To Cleveland, I can just say, "Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me."

5. deniron
Effurun/Nigeria, 00,
July 21, 2014

I think he has gain more experience, brave to come back and to share his knowledge gained. Such receive the highest prize. I congratulate him for burying pride