LeBron James returning home to Cleveland

Updated: 2014-07-12 08:27


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LeBron James returning home to Cleveland
NBA superstar LeBron James' face image is covered over with black spray-paint in a mural of the championship team in the Wynwood district of Miami, Florida July 11, 2014. LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers four years after he left his home state to join the Miami Heat, he said on Friday. [Photo/Agencies]

LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers four years after he left his home state to join the Miami Heat, he said on Friday.

The NBA's biggest star made the announcement in a first-person essay published in Sports Illustrated. It came in stark contrast to his televised decision four years ago for which he was heavily criticized.

Under a banner headline "I'm Coming Home", James explained his decision to go back to Cleveland after leading a star-studded Miami Heat team to two NBA championships and four Eastern Conference titles.

"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. People there have seen me grow up," James wrote.

"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."

Along with nestling back among his fellow Ohioans, James will be warmed by a contract worth a reported $88 million for four years, according to ESPN.

The Heat, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers were among teams that had expressed interest in signing James, widely regarded as the best basketball player on the planet.

The frenzy over the 29-year-old forward's eventual landing spot was the biggest the NBA had seen since James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all signed contracts to team up in Miami in 2010.

James, who was on the losing end of a humbling five-game defeat by the San Antonio Spurs in last month's NBA Finals, opted out of the final two years of his contract with Miami to become a free agent who could negotiate with any team.

"These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man," James, who grew up in Akron, Ohio, said about his time with the Heat.

"I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing today."

Heat owner Micky Arison was crushed.

"I am shocked & disappointed in today's news. However I will never forget what Lebron brought us for 4 years. Thanks for memories @KingJames," Arison said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, euphoria reigned in Cleveland.

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