They like letters in Ohio, apparently, even in this e-mail era.
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote his scathing letter to LeBron James after he left for the Miami Heat four years ago, and James returned the favor in a way that no one could have seen coming back then by announcing his decision to return in a letter in Sports Illustrated.
DECISION: More on the move
AMICK: 'Bigger than basketball'
But he did not make his final decision until Thursday morning, a person with knowledge of James' decision told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the decision.
He had wrestled with this idea of going back to Cleveland for years now, but even near the end, the prospect of forgiving and forgetting the classless way that Gilbert had said goodbye was something James had trouble reconciling. Yet as James knew better than anyone, it was his heavily-criticized announcement on The Decision show that set this terrible tone. Thus, he was finally ready to make amends.
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After making up his mind, with the Heat as the only other team that James seriously considered in those final days, James sat down with Sports Illustrated reporter Lee Jenkins in Las Vegas on Thursday and went to work sharing his inner thoughts. He wrote about his childhood in Northeast Ohio and how he'd realized over time that this decision was "bigger than basketball." He even used that infamous word again — "talent" — but this time in a more subtle, mature way than when he said, "I'm taking my talents to South Beach" on ESPN back on July 8, 2010.
"Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get," James wrote.
Jenkins and James worked on the letter into the night, and Sports Illustrated received it the following morning.
"I'm coming home," the headline read.
The letter said it all.