When I first heard talk of the possibility of LeBron James returning to Cleveland in 2014 (something I’ve mulled over ever since he left for Miami) my first reaction wasn’t, “Screw LeBron, we don’t need him back, and I don’t want him back.” It wasn’t, “The Cavs wouldn’t do it, they want to build the right way. Dan Gilbert definitely wouldn’t do it.”
My first reaction was...If this were to happen, would that not be the most awkwardly awesome situation to ever occur in the history of professional sports?
Just think about it.
Cleveland fans, forget for a second how LeBron “backstabbed” the city of Cleveland and the Cavaliers franchise. Forget how he set this franchise back a good five years. Forget how much he wrecked our collective professional-basketball-rooting lives. Forget how you would love nothing more than to see LeBron fail for the rest of his career and/or suffer a career-ending injury.
Forget those things and just ask yourself how awesome LeBron returning to Cleveland would be for every party involved.
Not awesome because you fancy the thought of seeing LeBron back in a Cavs uniform again (not a lot of Cavs fans do). Not awesome because you want a championship and he would certainly help. Rather, it would be awesome because of how weird it would actually be. Weird for Dan Gilbert, the front office, the fans, all the way down to LeBron himself.
So weird that you can’t even begin to imagine how you and everyone else would react. So weird that you don’t even know how it would unfold. And that’s why all Cavs fans should secretly want this to happen.
Despite how much Gilbert hates LeBron, wouldn’t Gilbert, being the businessman he is, have to do this?
Sports-wise, can you think of a more prodigal son-like story than this? Here’s the thing about using a “prodigal son” analogy: It’s not one father deciding whether or not to welcome his hedonistic son back in open arms, it’s hundreds of thousands of fans deciding.
Hundreds of thousands of otherwise irrational fans (not a knock on Cleveland; that’s the nature of all fans), capable of collectively reacting in any possible way. Hundreds of thousands of fans who made disposal of their LeBron jerseys within a 72-hour window after The Decision. Hundreds of thousands of fans who celebrated the Dallas Mavericks' championship for all the wrong reasons.
Mostly, hundreds of thousands of fans who would be at odds if LeBron decided to come back.
LeBron returning to Cleveland wouldn’t be ugly, crazy, tearful, heartfelt or jubilation to its fullest form. Instead, it would be a healthy mixture of all the above, ultimately resulting in flat-out awkwardness. We’re talking “Manny Ramirez returning to the Indians” type of awkwardness...times a thousand.
If it were to happen...after the Decision Part II, does Twitter shut down for an entire month?
Does LeBron’s debut receive the highest television ratings in the history of professional sports?
During the starting lineups, do they announce James’ name last? First? In the middle?
Do Cavs fans give a warm, heartfelt standing ovation? Or is it a weird mix of cheers, boos and people like myself who wouldn’t cheer or boo just for the curious purpose of listening to how other Cavs fans react?
Does he wear No. 6 or No. 23?
Would Brian Windhorst be there covering the game as the head writer of ESPN.com's newly founded, ESPNLeBron?
Would Scott Raab immediately begin writing a second installment to his book, The Whore of Akron? Do I begin writing a book?
Do I forego employment to spend that entire NBA season watching Skip Bayless on ESPN First Take every morning?
Look, as a Cleveland fan I feel the same way about LeBron as most everyone else. In no way would it be right for LeBron to return to Cleveland after he spent five years living it up in Miami as the Cavs and their fans experienced the trials and tribulations of having to endure a plethora of seasons involving no more than 30 wins.
But would I like to see LeBron James back in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform? Yes, and for all the wrong reasons I suppose.