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LeBron James announces return to Cavaliers in Sports Illustrated piece

07.11.14 at 12:41 pm ET
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The wait is over.

After weeks of drama and speculation, LeBron James, arguably the biggest free agent of the millennium, penned an essay for Sports Illustrated on Friday announcing that he is returning to the Cavaliers just four years after breaking the city’s heart and bolting for Miami.

“Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. 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,” James wrote through SI’s Lee Jenkins. “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 added: “I always believed that I’€™d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’€™t know when.”

An Akron, Ohio, native, James spent the first seven years of his career with the Cavs before leaving for the Heat in a highly scrutinized announcement on national television in 2010. James, along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, won two championships with Miami and led the Heat to four straight NBA Finals appearances.

James had been labeled a villain to the Cavaliers and their fans following the ESPN event known as The Decision. Fans burned his jersey in the streets, he was booed as a visiting player in Cleveland and owner Dan Gilbert reviled James in an open letter that stayed on the team’s website for four years before being removed last week.

Now Miami understands Cleveland’s pain. Heat owner Micky Arison expressed his disappointment on Twitter shortly after the announcement.

Gilbert, on the other hand, is feeling much differently than he did four years ago.

James opted out of his contract with the Heat about two weeks after they lost to the Spurs in five games in the championship round.

What followed was a nearly three-week frenzy involving media reports and meetings between Rich Paul, James’ agent, and prospective teams.

Paul spoke to the Cavaliers, Rockets, Lakers, Mavericks and Suns. On Wednesday, James and Paul met with Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas.

“I looked at other teams, but I wasn’€™t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland,” James wrote. “The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.”

The Cavs made a three-team deal involving the Nets and Celtics on Wednesday to create enough cap space to bring in James on a maximum salary contract. Now he’ll be playing alongside All-Star Kyrie Irving and the last two No. 1 overall picks – Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.

James acknowledged the ultimate goal of bringing a championship to Cleveland. Although the signing makes the Cavs an immediate favorite in the lowly Eastern Conference, James said Cleveland isn’t a championship team yet.

“We’re not ready right now,” he said. “No way.”

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