Coming Home

As I mentioned earlier today, I think LeBron’s coming home to an overrated roster. But there are still moves to be made, for sure, and if Kevln Love does land in Cleveland, the Cavs are already good enough to compete for the conference title.

But LeBron’s made it quite clear that this is, as he said today, about more than basketball.

As he told SI’s Lee Jenkins:

But this is not about the roster or the organization. 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.

This is good image-management, but I have no reason not to take LBJ at his word. He was mocked mercilessly when he said last year “‘I’m not even supposed to be here.” The mocking was par for the LeBron course during the Miami years. It is a fact, however, the James grew up in extraordinarily tough circumstances. Akron is a high crime, high poverty city. His mom was sixteen when he was born. He spent several years living with another family. Lots of young African Americans do not make it out. There was nothing self-pitying or self-aggrandizing about what James said. Just a lot of ignorance on the part of a sporting world that still can’t really comprehend what it is that many African American have athletes endured on their way to the spotlight.

That LeBron still carries the challenges of his childhood with him should be obvious by now. That a commitment to helping kids who face similar challenges live a better life appears to have been a factor in his decision to come back home is pretty extraordinary.


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