Four years ago, LeBron James left his family to “buy a packet of smokes” and never returned.*
Like a father escaping overwhelming domestic demands and frustration over his inability to put food on the table for his family (a championship), James’ simply skipped town on Cleveland.
And like any good mid-life crisis, LeBron’s abandonment coincided with him turning his lusty attentions towards the hot new girl down in payroll. She was a sensuous latina, she promised him the world, and her name was Miami.
Miami gave James fame, success and any everything he had ever dreamed of. But upon reaching his career zenith, James slowly awoke to a realisation that the key to life can’t be found in the accumulation of $100 bills and championship rings. It is about something more: love.
And the only true time LeBron had been loved was back in those early days, surrounded by his adoring family – they people who loved him simply because he was himself. So he headed to the Greyhound station to commence the long and lonely journey home.
Meanwhile, Cleveland was struggling as a single mother trying to make ends meet. She looked after the kids best she knew how, held a job bagging groceries at the local supermarket to cover the bills, and tried to ease the pain of a broken heart with a succession of failed relationships with various dead-beat meth heads and petty crims – but they were no substitute for her childhood sweetheart.
But then one day there was a knock on the door.
A little more than four years after LeBron James had deserted Cleveland in the most public of manners, he was now back. Daddy had returned home sober with all the winnings he made from the track– and the family unit was whole again.
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The LeBron James returning to Cleveland story has been described as a fairytale, but it’s not. It’s more than that. It’s a religious tale. A tale of redemption. It’s about a young man having a spiritual realization, that money and glory aren’t necessarily the be all and end all. That the quest for dollars and success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
There’s something more to life. And that something is love. The love of our friends, family and the admiration and trust of the people in the town you grew up in.
LeBron James gives us all hope. Hope that despite our discretions – be they cheating on our wives or girlfriends, going to jail for defrauding your employer or punching someone with a broken schooner glass – we can all find redemption.
Indeed, you can be the most selfish person in the world, abandon friends and family in pursuit of hedonism, money and personal glory. Not only that, you can do it all on live TV, waving your abandonment in their faces. But all can be forgiven. It just takes is a bit of humility (a trait not often seen in American athletes), admitting you made a mistake, and a Public Apology™.
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Daddy’s return has done a lot to heal the family’s old wounds from that violent abandonment, but the scars will take longer to disappear. LeBron has to find full-time employment, nail a promotion and stay off the demon drink. Then and only then, will he finally be able bring home that delicious Christmas turkey Cleveland has been hungering for.
Then we can talk about fairytales.
By Ben Shine with Dave Edwards
*This is a silly metaphor. In reality, LeBron seems like quite the family man.