Cue the music—Diddy’s “Coming Home,” if you please.
For a city seeking its first major championship since 1964, Cleveland has embraced the news that Lebron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. But if the King is to hoist his third Larry O’Brien (NBA championship) trophy come May, he will have to rely on an oft-overlooked aspect of the game: his team.
There is little doubt within the basketball universe that Lebron is one of the best players to ever step onto the hardwood. He can score, rebound and pass at an elite level. He can be Kobe Bryant in the clutch just as easily as Tim Duncan on the podium. But as Cleveland witnessed during the King’s previous reign, a singular talent is not enough to win it all in today’s hyper-competitive NBA. While the rains of four Midwest summers have washed away much of that pain, the Cavaliers front office has drastically altered their approach this time around; they have quietly assembled one of the league’s deepest teams behind its premier talent.
When the Miami Heat formed their so-called “Big Three” of James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, the bench had little to no NBA level talent. Heck, they did not even have a clear cut starting center, instead choosing to rotate an assorted collection of teenagers and retirees in and out of the lineup. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are a completely different story. For starters, the new “Big Three” are almost certainly more talented than their predecessors. Joining Lebron is homegrown Cleveland youngster Kyrie Irving, one of the most electrifying point guards in recent memory.
Kevin Love, a perennial MVP-caliber frontcourt presence, finally gets a chance to play meaningful games after six torturous years with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Pure scorer Dion Waiters teams up with pure rebounder Anderson Varejao to round out a starting lineup that has forced its way into “best of all time” conversations. Even the Cavs bench is intimidating, featuring ex-NBA Champion Brendan Haywood, All-Star three-point champion James Jones, young talent Tristan Thompson and super-utility player Mike Miller.
With such a talent-laden roster heading into training camp, expectations are rightfully sky high throughout Cleveland. Miami appeared in the Finals all four years of the “Big Three” era and won consecutive titles in 2012 and 2013. As the Cavs finally report for practices following this eventful offseason, there is no reason to believe that a reinforced King James cannot repeat—or even top—that feat.
Lebron James has come home to the city that made him and raised him. He has Irving. He has Love. He has reclaimed the franchise that always was his. Now is the time for the King to finally bring home what countless others could not. Take up the hands of Cleveland, and lead us to the promised land.