The sports media world churns with the effort to understand LeBron James's reasons for returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers after his four-year run with the Miami Heat. Why did he make this choice? Is he ready to be great on his own terms? Has he now, at 30, finally become a man? Does he care more about winning than he lets on? Did being away from his hometown fill him with appreciation for it? Is he "guided by ... a complex web of emotional impulses and affections"? Did he spend 10 minutes doing half-assed Basketball Reference research to prop up a 72,000-word argument that it's really all about preserving his legs?
Who knows? Who can know? No one can know. All we have to go on is the speculation of professional sportswriters, and the insights of their sources. With that in mind, let's turn to a source familiar with LeBron's thinking; maybe he can shed some light on the situation.
Take it away, LeBron fucking James.
What's LeBron's relationship with Northeast Ohio like?
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. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now.
That must have made it pretty tough for LeBron to leave.
Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating.
If LeBron had it all to do over again, would he do things differently?
If I had to do it all over again, I'd obviously do things differently,
But would he still have left?
but I'd still have left.
What's Miami been like for LeBron?
Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing today.
Why did LeBron choose Miami over all the other teams that were after him in 2010?
I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB. We made sacrifices to keep UD. I loved becoming a big bro to Rio. I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And that's exactly what we did!
Wow. Is it hard for LeBron to leave what he built with those guys?
The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys.
Has LeBron talked to any of them?
I've talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. We are brothers for life. I also want to thank Micky Arison and Pat Riley for giving me an amazing four years.
Why is it important for LeBron to explain himself this way?
I'm doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don't want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn't get along ... He and Riles didn't get along ... The Heat couldn't put the right team together. That's absolutely not true.
So what's next? A big press conference or a party?
I'm not having a press conference or a party.
After this, is it time to get to work?
After this, it's time to get to work.
Huh. Anything else?
When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn't had that feeling in a long, long, long time.
Sounds like winning a trophy for Northeast Ohio is very important to Lebron.
My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what's most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.
Did LeBron ever imagine that he'd return to Cleveland as a player?
I always believed that I'd return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn't know when. After the season, free agency wasn't even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn't going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right.
Is this what makes LeBron happy?
This is what makes me happy.
What needed to be in place for LeBron to make this move?
To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, "OK, I don't want to deal with these people ever again." But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I've met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We've talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I've made mistakes as well.
Any lingering grudges?
Who am I to hold a grudge?
OK. Switching gears for a moment, it's basically Championship City from here on in for Cleveland, right?
I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.
But this is not about the roster or the organization.
What's it about, then? Does LeBron feel he has a higher calling, here?
I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.
Hey, since we're on the topic of Northeast Ohio, let me ask you about something I've always wondered. In Northeast Ohio, do they just straight-up give stuff away all the time?
In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.
Whoa. Sounds like quite a challenge!
I'm ready to accept the challenge. I'm coming home.
Eh, what the hell does he know.
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