“I'm not having a press conference or a party. After this, it's time to get to work.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that sentence today from NBA superstar LeBron James. There were plenty of endearing, heartfelt comments in his letter announcing his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but none stood out to me more than that particular sentence.
Four years ago, James had it all blow up in his face when the poorly-executed ‘Decision’ was broadcast on national television. He lost the respect of many not just for sticking it to Cleveland fans, but by also not telling the organization moments before that he was indeed leaving.
And no one will forget the party Miami held the next day, with the smoke and strobe lights. Most of the sports world was infuriated as LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh bragged about the string of championships they were going to bring to South Beach.
Friday afternoon, we didn’t get any of that. What we got was maturity.
Forget the basketball side of it for a moment. Everything about that letter felt right. Like many, I had been completely turned off once again by the free agent process that had been unfolding for the past week or so. Every time you turned on a TV, or logged in to social media, it was constant LeBron and the tiresome "what will he do" narrative we had all heard in 2010.
As each day passed, many were just sick and tired of hearing about it. Make a decision already, LeBron. But think for a minute about all the chaos amongst the media and all their prominent "sources" they all had, telling them this and that. The one person who wasn’t talking at all during all of this madness? LeBron James.
Personally, I felt this past week was an embarrassing one for journalism, with all the mistruths running around. There was little restraint, from some of the biggest names in national media, because everyone was trying to get one over on someone else.
Whether you felt it was another long, drawn out spectacle or not, remember, LeBron James remained silent until his letter Friday afternoon. It was the talking heads of the big market media making this a bigger deal than it ever had to be. I found it to be very telling that James quietly put out his letter through a Sports Illustrated writer who didn't make a single tweet about James and the free agent process, rather than the talking heads of ESPN.
Another key aspect in his letter, and give credit to his team of associates who surely helped him in the presentation, was making sure to not promise a championship. Very critical, all things considered with the whole 50 years and counting title drought in Cleveland.
James clearly knows he's joining a franchise with a new GM, a new head coach from overseas and an owner who, let's be completely honest, is at best known as a bit of a loose cannon. He's joining a roster that is very young, and doesn't know how to win consistently yet in the NBA.
LeBron recognizes that, while some overzealous fans and Las Vegas bookies get excited. There is no party or celebration (sorry to disappoint, Johnny Manziel), because it's time to go to work in Cleveland. There are after all, some pretty good teams in the Western Conference that no one should be forgetting about.
The world watched LeBron James grow up and mature as a complete basketball player two years ago when he won his first NBA title, and was pretty flawless in doing so. Friday, I think we saw a big step in the maturation of LeBron James as a person.
Fair or not, celebrities like James must grow up in front of the general public. There is no privacy and likely never will be. It's the nature of the beast. But Friday truly felt like the maturation of someone who is very mindful of not only his public perception, but how important he is and can be to kids.
You can learn how to let go of a grudge. There are certain things you don't get to take back, but you do have the opportunity to make things right with the people you care about.
You can either run from a problem, or learn from it. And, you certainly can go back home again.
LeBron James is back, and he's all grown up. And everything about it feels right.