LeBron James is coming home.
The four-time NBA MVP announced on Friday that he will sign a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending the last four seasons as a member of the Miami Heat. In an essay written for Sports Illustrated, James explained the rationale behind his decision.
"Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio," James wrote. "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."
James said he wrote the essay, in lieu of a press conference, because he "want[ed] an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted." For the 29-year-old, it was a desire to bring an NBA title to the team that drafted him in 2003, not the failure of the Miami Heat, that drove him to return to Cleveland.
"I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there," he said. "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. This is what makes me happy," he said.
In Cleveland, James will play with a team that hasn't reached the NBA playoffs since he left in 2010, with a first-year head coach in David Blatt. However, the Cavaliers' roster is brimming with young talent, including point guard Kyrie Irving, 2014 first overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins and promising power forward Tristan Thompson -- talent that James believes he will be able to help mold.
"I’m not promising a championship," he said. "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."
This is a breaking story and will be updated as more information becomes available.