It’s a good thing LeBron James didn’t pull an Eli Manning and refuse to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. A recent report by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst shows he wasn’t exactly keen on playing for his hometown team back in 2003 when he was a teenager about to enter the NBA Draft.
“When James was a teenager, he started attending games at the arena, and he couldn’t believe how bad the Cavs were, how empty the arena often was, with its bright blue seats seeming like a neon sign of disinterest,” Windhorst wrote. “During his senior year of high school, he went to several games, was given courtside seats and visited the locker room. His thought was pretty clear after he watched that 17-win team with the lowest attendance in the league: They were awful, and he didn’t want to be a part of it.”
As we know, James was actually a Chicago Bulls fan and grew up idolizing Michael Jordan. That’s why he wore the number 23 on his jersey for years.
James did end up in Cleveland, and he didn’t take long to elevate the franchise as a championship contender. Though, he never won a ring during his first go-round with the Cavaliers, coming closest after the 2006-07 season in the 2007 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
Then came the “Decision” in 2010 when he “took his talents” to Miami.
Of course now he’s back at home with the Cavaliers and doesn’t have any intentions of leaving. After helping bring an NBA title to Cleveland for the first time in franchise history last season, he’s firmly entrenched with a new three-year deal worth just under $100 million.
He’s also become quite influential, with team owner Dan Gilbert recently calling his relationship with James “a partnership.” He also vowed to continue spending big to keep the team competitive in the coming years (more on that here).
Coming back full circle, a guy who didn’t want to play in Cleveland because the franchise was terrible might never leave again. And it isn’t crazy to think he’ll leave quite the championship legacy before he’s finished.