How LeBron did 'The Decision' right this time
JUL 12, 2014 4:39a ET
LeBron James' decision to leave the Miami Heat and rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers dominated the sports news cycle Friday, but this time the response was overwhelmingly positive. So how'd LeBron make all the right moves this time? Here's how it all went down.
First, LeBron stayed out of his foray into free agency. He sent his agent and longtime friend Rich Paul to meet with teams that were interested.
Paul was impressed with the Cavs' pitch at their meeting and their follow-up, sources told FOX Sports Ohio's Sam Amico, and Paul began working with them to make it happen. The Cavs felt Paul was in their corner "100 percent," according to a source. Soon, it was proved James was, too.
How Sports Illustrated Broke The Story
James announced his return to Cleveland on Friday via a first-person essay published on Sports Illustrated's website at 12:13 p.m. ET. SI senior writer Lee Jenkins helped James construct the essay "I'm Coming Home," which is on pace to become "the biggest traffic event in the history of the magazine," according to Advertising Age.
LeBron's essay is remarkable. Going forward this will be known as "The Letter."— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 11, 2014
LeBron's friends and family cried when they read the first drafts of his essay. Wasn't about Cavs or Heat, was about home, home fans.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 11, 2014
The essay's thoughtful, mature tone was a far cry from the "taking my talents to South Beach" of four years ago, and was widely praised across the sports world. A few highlights:
• "When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn't had that feeling in a long, long, long time. 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."
• "Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. 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 went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB. 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 those guys."
• "I'm not promising a championship. 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."
• "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. In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I'm ready to accept the challenge. I'm coming home."
Jenkins mentioned to his editors months ago that he wished to pursue a story on the next part of James' career. He then followed the 29-year-old superstar's path until the decision was made. Jenkins flew to Las Vegas on Wednesday and met with James to construct the essay Thursday night.
"It all goes to Lee Jenkins," SI managing editor Chris Stone said. "He made this happen."
Jenkins then emailed the essay to his editors around mid-morning Friday. Only about six people saw it before it ran on SI's website, Stone said.
How The Heat Found Out LeBron Was Leaving
Heat president Pat Riley and owner Mickey Arison received a Friday morning call from James, who informed them of his decision before the essay was posted to SI.com, ESPN reported. ESPN previously reported that the Heat first heard of James' decision when the essay was posted. ESPN later corrected that.
How The Cavaliers Found Out LeBron Was Returning
The same way everyone else did: online. That's what sources told ESPN.
The Cavs learned of LeBron's choice when the letter posted, sources said. LeBron wanted people of Ohio to know first.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 11, 2014
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert told ESPN that he got a call from Paul Friday morning to congratulate and inform him that James was coming home. He said he asked how they planned to announce it and they told him they already had.
James and Gilbert had sat down Sunday night in Miami to hash things out, Yahoo! Sports/FOX Sports 1 NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported, and both apologized to one another for past mistakes.
"We had five great years together and one terrible night," Gilbert told James in the meeting, according to Yahoo. "I told him how sorry I was, expressed regret for how that night went and how I let all the emotion and passion for the situation carry me away. I told him I wish I had never done it, that I wish I could take it back."
The Cavaliers are expected to give James a four-year, $88 million max deal, though no negotiations had taken place before the announcement, ESPN reported.
FOX Sports Ohio's Sam Amico contributed to this report.
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