Mar 6 2014, 12:01am CST | by Forbes
Proving what goes around comes around—and took just four years to circumnavigate—the Cleveland Cavaliers are bringing back LeBron James, their icon-turned demon, who plans to attend Saturday’s ceremony to retire former teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ number.
Exactly! It looks innocent. No one can prove otherwise… and the Cavs, who yearn to woo Bron home from Miami as a free agent—he still lives near Cleveland—can walk him out to a ringing ovation in this audition, er, heart-warming moment, showing him that his old fans still love him, despite those bonfires, torn-down billboards, et al.
Oh yeah, since 2008-2010, when Knick fans turned the Cavaliers’ visits to Madison Square Garden into LeBronstock festivals, chanting his name in the hope of luring him as a free agent.
This isn’t a coincidence. If Ilgasukas, now the Cavs’ assistant GM, invited James, the date was set last October, for this two-day break in Miami’s schedule.
This thaw was years in the making, fostered by James insiders in Cleveland passing the word that the Cavs would be on Bron’s list if he was to leave. If that looks unlikely at the moment with Bron saying recently he doesn’t see himself going anywhere, it’s championship or bust for the Heat. The team is in conservation mode after three Finals runs with Dwyane Wade’s health an ever-larger issue.
With James, 29, focused on winning more titles in the last multi-year deal in his prime, the Cavs were one of the most viable alternatives. The roster was young and promising. They had had the cap room for his maximum $20.6 million salary, even if the mixed receptions Bron got there left some making up to do.
If half the Hall of Fame played for more than one team and many forced trades or left as free agents, no one ever left like this. James’ “Witness” billboard across from the arena was taken down. Fans held merchandise burnings. Owner Dan Gilbert, who had railed at elitist non-Midwest media speculation about James leaving, released a long, howling statement to the media, announcing in capital letters, “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE.”
Some days of infamy live forever. Some don’t last four years.
James’ attendance at the ceremony would be legitimate, whatever its side benefits. James and Ilgasukas are indisputably tight. With all the condemnation ringing in Bron’s ears when he left Cleveland, Z followed him to Miami three days later.
Heat officials are unhappy, but this isn’t Shane Battier. With no inclination to disappoint James, the team has kept a low profile to this point.
So what could go wrong now? Oh, yeah, there’s that.
In a daring, or whacko move last summer, Gilbert rehired Mike Brown, whom he fired in 2010… meaning that by definition, he messed up one of those times. Whoever is to blame, the Cavaliers are no longer as promising at 24-38.
Worse, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst just reported that Kyrie Irving, whom the Cavs thought they were building around, wants out. Irving is tied up through the 2015-16 season but if he turns down an extension this summer, Gilbert may trade him rather than risk letting him walk, as he did with Bron.
So if the ceremony doesn’t work the way it was drawn up, at least the Cavaliers will get even for those New York trips. In any case, forgiveness is good for the soul.
Source: Forbes Business
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