Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is leaving his hometown team once again.
The four-time NBA most valuable player has signed a four-year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Quicken Loans Arena is in the middle of a $140 million renovation, about half financed by the public. The Cavaliers wanted to update the Q for the future—but now that future won’t include the star who carried the team to multiple NBA Finals.
The last time James left Cleveland, eight years ago, people didn’t take it so well. Some fans infamously burned t-shirts and jerseys after James announced the decision to go the Miami Heat.
But today the tone is much different.
“At the end of the day, I think he did it much better than he did it in 2010, and he delivered on what he came back here to do,” Melvin Davis said on East 4th Street Monday morning.
Davis was talking about James’ promise to bring a trophy to this championship-starved city.
“I remember his quote: I’m going to win one for the Land,” Davis said. “He delivered that in 2016.”
That year, down a daunting three games to one, James carried the Cavs back to a Game 7 win against the Golden State Warriors.
Many people here said they’re grateful that James got it done, though Adam Offenberger sounded a bit envious of the NBA’s Western Conference now.
“California’s got the Warriors,” Offenberger said. “Now LeBron going to the Lakers, it’s kind of like, everything’s out west. Kind of a little imbalanced there. But wish him the best, really, but it still stings a little bit.”
When James left in 2010, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert struck out at him, calling the move an “act of disloyalty.”
But what a difference a championship makes. Now Gilbert says he looks forward to retiring James’ jersey.
James bid farewell to Cavs fans on Instagram, saying Northeast Ohio would always be his home. And his involvement here continues with his family foundation.
Many in Cleveland, like Joe Toledo, have no ill will toward the superstar this time around.
“He played his heart out when he was here,” Toledo said. “The guy is just a standup guy, amazing guy. He is going to be one of the all-time athletic greats, in my opinion.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s sports section today summed it up in a two-word headline: “Promise Kept.”