Rob Oller commentary: If James wants to come back, welcome him
Cleveland sports fans dream of the do-over, of being able to go back and change painful outcomes.
They dream ...
Of having Craig Ehlo perform “The Block” of Michael Jordan’s shot in the 1989 NBA playoffs;
Of having John Elway throw “The Interception” late in the 1987 AFC championship game;
Of having Jose Mesa record “The Save” to win the 1997 World Series.
Mercifully, we’ll stop there.
Unfortunately, Apple has yet to invent a hand-held time machine, so Cleveland fans are left to watch the Cavs-Miami Heat game on Sunday for a glimpse of any potential back-to-the-future.
There, on the same court, past (LeBron James) and present (Kyrie Irving) will offer a juicy vision of what could be: The Decision Do-over.
Don’t laugh. Better yet, don’t swear. It could happen. Some NBA insiders think it will, predicting that James will return to Cleveland when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2014. The thinking is that James wants to make up for his idiotic move in 2010, when he announced on national TV that he was leaving the Cavs for Miami. That little trick resulted in Clevelanders going sackcloth and ashes by burning their King James jerseys.
No one has forgotten how the Akron native turned his back on his “hometown” team up the road, and many have not forgiven, either. But it is time for Clevelanders to offer James the hand of fellowship — at least if they want to win a championship anytime soon.
And that’s the goal, right? To cleanse the blight brought on a proud city scarred by decades of Earnest Bynerisms.
“No way. We will never welcome that traitorous villain into Cleveland again.”
Fine, keep watering your bitter root. Me? I’ll take a title.
Without Irving, James’ interest in returning to Cleveland would be tepid. He wants to right his wrong, but not at the expense of missing out on potential championship rings. He already sports title bling on one finger, could win a second this season and might see winning multiple championships in multiple cities — something Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Bill Russell never accomplished — as giving him a leg up in the legacy department.
As Irving’s stock continues to rise — he padded his résumé by becoming the sixth-youngest player selected to the All-Star Game and winning the three-point shooting contest — so increases the likelihood that James would consider returning. (As an aside, Cavs fans who want James should root for Miami to win at least one more championship, thus lessening his fears of bailing on South Beach and having Heat fans label him an underachiever; yes, he is that sensitive.)
The possibility of being paired with Irving in Cleveland trumps other obstacles that might keep James from again wearing the wine and gold. He could make millions more with Miami than by signing elsewhere. Also, has he truly forgiven Cavs owner Dan Gilbert for assailing his character when he bailed? Is Gilbert willing to suffer the embarrassment that would come with welcoming James back into the fold?
Finally, and this is no small concern, the assumption is that James would want to join Irving in Cleveland. But what if James goes elsewhere and attempts to lure Irving into joining him when the point guard can become a free agent in 2015?
Speculation aside, we know Cleveland will have plenty of salary-cap space to sign James in 2014. We know the Cavs, as currently constituted, are an attractive landing spot of young talent. Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller. All that is missing is an ultra-talented small forward. With James, Cleveland becomes a title contender.
This Decision is a no-brainer. Do the do-over, Cleveland. Open your arms to LeBron, Part II.
Rob Oller is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.