LeBron James Leaves Miami Heat to Rejoin Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James announced on Friday that he will return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, his hometown team.

The NBA star, who left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010, made the announcement in an essay for the Sports Illustrated website.

He said: “My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”

James, 29, who has been reported to be on his way to Brazil for Sunday's World Cup final, ended a week of intense speculation by saying: “I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”

James was born in Akron, Ohio, where he became a high-school basketball star. Selected first in the 2003 Draft, in 2007 he took the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals. They were swept, four games to nothing, by the San Antonio Spurs.

The form of James's announcement echoed, if in less dramatic form, that of his decision to go to Miami. In 2010, he made his choice in a much-derided ESPN TV special entitled “The Decision”.

That move led to a public falling out with the Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert, who posted an infamous open letter to fans in which he promised that his team would win an NBA championship before James did.

James has appeared in four straight NBA Finals series with the Heat, winning against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 and the Spurs in 2013. Last season, the Heat lost the finals to the Spurs in five games, leading to suggestions that their ageing team was in need of rebuilding.

The Cavaliers have not made the playoffs since James left, although their struggles over recent seasons have landed them the last two No1 Draft picks. They are also reported to be in trade talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves, for the star forward Kevin Love.

In his Sports Illustrated piece, James considered his acrimonious departure from Cleveland and said he had met Gilbert before making the decision to return.

“The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned – seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react?

“I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?”

James also discussed his time as part of Miami's “big three”, alongside the star players Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Wade and Bosh followed James in becoming free agents this summer and could now follow him out of Miami. Bosh has been linked with the Houston Rockets.

“I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB,” he wrote. “I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And that’s exactly what we did! The hardest thing to leave is what I built with t

hose guys. I’ve talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. We are brothers for life.”

James in action for Miami in Game 5 of their losing 2014 NBA Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs. Photograph: Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports

James also sought to dispel any rumours – or any future rumours – that his relationships with Miami coach Erik Spoelstra or president Pat Riley had anything to do with his decision to leave.

“I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted,” he wrote. “I don’t want anyone thinking: 'He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and Riles didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together.' That’s absolutely not true.”

James added: “I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.”

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