The 2013-14 NBA season underway, and there are lots of interesting storylines to follow. Will the Miami Heat three-peat? Will the return of Derrick Rose make the Bulls serious contenders? Will Stephen Curry and the Warriors take the next step? Can Kevin Durant keep the Thunder going all by himself while Russell Westbrook recuperates? Will Tim Duncan ever get old?
These are all very good questions. And some people are asking them. However, a lot of other people have been preoccupied with this one: will LeBron James return to Cleveland in 2014?
Is it silly to let a question about the 2014 offseason dominate NBA talk at the start of the 2013-14 season? Yeah, probably. But you have to admit it’s a pretty damned intriguing thought, so the interest people have given to it is still pretty understandable.
Of course, no one can really say whether this will happen. However, we can say why it should happen. And that’s what we’re going to do right now.
Ready to go down the rabbit hole? Okay, then let’s get to it.
If you think I'm crazy, you don't know enough about Cleveland sports fans. These are people who embrace the Browns, an NFL team that has made the playoffs just once in the last 14 seasons. They are obviously a forgiving people even when there's pretty much nothing in it for them. Don't you think they would forgive LeBron if it meant actually winning a professional sports championship—something the city of Cleveland has not seen happen in 49 years?
I think they would. They'd kill the fatted calf for him. And that kid who ran onto the court wearing this t-shirt when Miami visited Cleveland last season is proof that I'm right.
9. Cleveland fans would embrace him again
Okay, fine, Kyrie Irving is a bit injury prone. But when this kid is playing he's damn good. The point guard is only 21 years old, but already last year he averaged 22.5 points and 5.9 assists per game. There is no reason not to believe this kid won't be a perennial MVP candidate in the coming years.
And I'm not the only one who thinks this. LeBron is also of this opinion, more or less.
Last year during the All-Star game, he told the Miami Herald, "I watch Kyrie a lot...He's gonna be unbelievable. He's already unbelievable in this league, first of all. What he's doing right now, and what he's going to do in the future, it's going to be crazy."
So could you imagine Kyrie dishing to LeBron? I bet LeBron can.
8. Kyrie Irving is awesome
When LeBron left, the Cavaliers sucked. Bad. However, they've rebuilt very wisely. Anderson Varejao has turned into a premier rebounder and excellent player off the bench. Irving is a brilliant play-maker. Dion Waiters can shoot the ball. Andrew Bynum is one of the best centers in the league when he decides to play basketball. And then there is newly drafted power forward Anthony Bennett, who could be pretty special (though in fairness, the jury is still out).
What's missing here? Oh, right, a kickass small forward.
Hey, wait, isn't LeBron James a small forward?
Oh yes, he is. And he'd be a perfect fit to a championship puzzle.
7. The rest of the team is good, too
The Heat may not decline this year. They may not even decline next year. But they will decline. And they'll do it a lot sooner than Cleveland will.
Just look at D-Wade. The dude is 31, but his knees are 47. He's slowing down and will not be the force he once was for much longer. Chris Bosh, meanwhile, is 29. He's still got a lot of gas in the tank, but he's also not as dominant as Wade or LeBron.
The fact is that the Heat are going to get old pretty fast, just like the Boston Celtics did. And because they're so good now, they're not going to be able to replenish their roster through the draft. Sure, Miami could try to land some big players through free agency or trades, but that's getting harder and harder to do (successfully) in the NBA. Just look at all the dumb contracts out there right now. (Joe Johnson, telephone call on line one.)
LeBron James is only 28 right now, but if he wants to win championships when he's 34, he should think about going to a club with a strong young core that he could mentor...like Cleveland.
6. Miami will decline
Seriously, LeBron, do you really want to keep playing in front of these people? They thought Game 6 of the finals was over last year when you were only down five points with half a minute to go. It's like they'd never even seen a basketball game before.
Are there good fans in Miami too? Of course there are, and I mean them no disrespect. I'm sure the good fans were as pained as the rest of us were when all the idiots started flocking out of American Airlines Arena.
But the good fans do not outshine the bad. That's a fact. Shouldn't LeBron go back to a place where he was loved unconditionally?
6. Miami basketball fans: not so great
"The Decision" was one of if not the biggest sports stories of 2010 because it was so absurdly awful. Yeah, LeBron raised a bunch of money for charity, but he didn't have to do it by ripping his home town's heart out of its chest and spitting on it live on national television.
Can you just imagine what would happen if LeBron reversed "The Decision"? It would be HUGE. It would be all anyone talked about for a solid week. Countless words would be written about it in every sports publication on earth.
In short, it would make LeBron James a bigger deal than he already is.
4. It would be the biggest sports story of the year
LeBron's sponsors already play fast and loose with the hyperbole when it comes to advertisements featuring the two-time NBA champion. Remember the giant 10 story sign of LeBron in Cleveland? The one that said, "We Are All Witnesses"? Well, that's nothing compared to what they'd do if LeBron went back to Cleveland. He'd be the ultimate hero, the ultimate redemption story, the ultimate everything.
As a result, it would also make him even richer.
3. His sponsors would go bonkers
Did anyone have a problem with LeBron before he left Cleveland? Nope. But when he left he became one of those athletes people love to hate.
The thing is, LeBron actually seems like a good guy. He has fun playing basketball, and unlike other superstars he's not selfish. He's a team player. Wouldn't it be nice if people didn't root against the greatest player of his generation?
I'm sure LeBron wouldn't mind not being the bad guy anymore.
2. It would rehabilitate his public image
Yeah, this is number one.
LeBron doesn't owe Cleveland for leaving. Every athlete has to do what's right for them, and leaving Cleveland was right for LeBron. The reason he owes Cleveland is for the way he left. He could have just signed a deal with Miami, taken out a full page ad in the Cleveland Plain Dealer to thank the fans, and all would have been forgiven—at least eventually.
Instead, he put on that ridiculous show, building up suspense and fueling hopes, only to smash them on the ground. It was cold and thoughtless.
The only way he could ever make it up to Cleveland would be to come home and win a championship for them. And that's what he should do.
1. He owes Cleveland
Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA, the decision,