FORT WAYNE – Four years ago, Cleveland fans had their hearts broken.
On Friday afternoon, they began to forgive the player who caused all the heartache.
LeBron James announced his decision to return to the Cavaliers and his home state through an essay posted on Sports Illustrated’s website.
I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted, James explained in the post. I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.
Fort Wayne resident Beth Schrader grew up in Minerva, Ohio, and has been a Cavaliers fan since she was 5 years old.
I was so disappointed when he left four years ago, she said. He broke hearts. I wanted to hate him. I sent my Cavaliers jersey to a homeless shelter in Miami, I was so upset.
Schrader is not the only one prepared to forgive James for leaving.
Zach Anderson, who grew up in the shadow of Chicago Bulls fandom, was secretly a Cavs fan, loving such players as Mark Price, Craig Ehlo and Larry Nance.
When (James) left, I was heartbroken and betrayed that somebody we had poured our emotions into, and that understood the hard times that we went through as Cavs fans, could just leave after getting so close to winning the first title in the 45 years as a franchise, Anderson said.
I never once said I hated LeBron as a player. He was, at that time, the No. 1 player on the planet and has been so every day since he left. Do I think his decision was selfish? Yes. But making a selfish decision doesn’t make you any less of a basketball player.
I am glad he is coming back, and I don’t hold it against him that he left because he won the championship he was looking for. If he had left and not won a title, I would be furious because he could have done that in Cleveland.
Becca Lamb, a native of North Ridgeville, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, was glued to her phone for three days, waiting for the formal announcement.
I had a good feeling he was coming back, she said. I was watching the 12 o’clock news and they said breaking news’ and I just knew that he was coming home. It’s all Cleveland’s been reporting on this week.
For Pacers fan Aaron Belcher, James’ return brings into question the success of the Indiana team next year.
The Pacers are going to have a hard time winning the Central Division with (Derrick) Rose coming back for the Bulls and LeBron joining Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins with the Cavs, he said.
If anyone had not heard about James before this week, they have now.
Schrader respects not only James as a player, but also as a businessman.
He feeds off the fanfare, she said. He may have been somewhat undecided, but he is a good businessman and is good at marketing himself.
Champs Sporting Goods in Glenbrook Square says James’ Cavaliers jerseys will be available in stores in about a month, and online even sooner.