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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James is going back to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James told Sports Illustrated Friday that he’s decided to go home. It’s a move that would have seemed unfathomable four years ago, after the venomous fallout that followed his decision to leave Cleveland for the Miami Heat.
James told SI in a first-person story: “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
He spent his first seven NBA seasons in Cleveland. In four years with the Heat, he went to the NBA Finals four times, winning two championships. And now heads back to Cleveland to see if he can finally deliver on his promise of winning a crown for that title-starved city.
James is from Akron, Ohio, not far from Cleveland.
“Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked,” James told SI. “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.”
He left Cleveland being called disloyal, a narcissist, a coward and a quitter — and that was all by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who wrote that infamous letter blasting James for choosing Miami.
And now James will play for Gilbert again.
“I’m not having a press conference or a party,” James told SI. “After this, it’s time to get to work.”
Tim Reynolds reported from Las Vegas and Tom Withers reported from Cleveland