It’s been four years since LeBron James announced he would be taking his talents to South Beach. Now, in a stunning turn, James has decided to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Look back at all that's gone on in between.
Shortly before leaving the team that drafted him seven years earlier, LeBron James garnered his second MVP trophy after leading them to a league-best record of 61-21. The much-criticized decision to have an ESPN special dedicated to announcing where he’ll sign cost LeBron James’ image in the public’s eyes, but improved his chances to win an NBA title considerably. "I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING' WINS ONE" James makes his now infamous boast that he was in Miami for, “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven,” championships. The much-anticipated debut of the Big 3 leads to record cable TV ratings, but ends in an 88-80 loss to the Celtics. A frustrated LeBron James may or may not have deliberately bumped his new coach Erik Spoelstra on the way to the bench during a loss to the Mavericks. The bump sparked much debate about whether or not Spoelstra was the man for the job and if Pat Riley would take over head-coaching duties. The bump incident leads to a players-only meeting that excluded their head coach. At the time, James described the meeting as, “a well-needed team meeting where everybody got an opportunity to get off what they had in their chest or what they had in their head about us figuring things out. Right now we are a 9-8 team and we have to own up to that." Miami won 21 out of its next 22 games after the meeting. The Heat finished the 2010-11 season with a 58–24 record, second in the East to the Chicago Bulls, who they eventually knocked out in the Eastern Conference Finals. In a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals, Dirk Nowitzki and Co. got their revenge and ended LeBron’s hope of winning his first ring. James was mocked endlessly for his dropoff in the series, including averaging only three points in the fourth quarters of games. In response to his haters, James said, “All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.” LeBron James’ work with Hakeem Olajuwon following the NBA Finals loss to Dallas changed his future forever. James won the MVP award for the third time in four seasons after leading Miami to a 46-20 record in the lockout-shortened season. James garnered his first NBA Finals trophy along with his first NBA Finals MVP honor after helping the Heat take out the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. After winning, he exclaims, “It’s about damn time.” Team USA went undefeated in the 2012 Olympic Games and beat Spain 107-100 in the gold medal game. After winning his second NBA Finals in as many years, an emotional James declared, “I'm blessed. So what everybody's saying about me off the court don't matter. I ain't got no worries." Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote: “After a magnificent 27-game run of victories by Miami, the Chicago Bulls vanquished the Heat 101-97 at the United Center. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' record of 33 consecutive victories survives – and may ultimately stand the test of time in this modern NBA.” James’ Finals ended much they way they started: with him on the bench in the closing minutes after San Antonio thoroughly dismantled Miami in a 104-87 victory in Game 5. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, “LeBron James will opt-out of deal, source confirms. He's determined to impose pressure on Miami to improve roster and spend, sources say” and that’s still the situation we find ourselves in two weeks later. LeBron James, Pat Riley