The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


July 13, 2014

A Rob Oller column: LeBron proves he’s a real winner

Any superstar can convince you that he is deserving of sports royalty if he has the rings and riches to prove it.

 But a changed King James returns to his castle in Cleveland as someone more respected than a mere ruler of basketball.

Four years after giving it lip service, LeBron James finally resembles a real leader.

The cynics, and at times we all have deserved that label regarding Cleveland sports in general and James in particular, will roll their eyes and crack wise. But taking him at his word — and that is the only fair way to analyze James’ essay on, Sports Illustrated’s website, in which he explains why he is leaving Miami to return to the Cavaliers — shows he has moved beyond hyphenation.

The man-child had become an adult.

The petulant LeBron, who showed a callous cluelessness four years ago with The Decision to take his talents to South Beach, has matured into a more thoughtful LeBron, beginning with how he broke the news of his lower-case decision Friday.

“I’m not having a press conference or a party,” he wrote, explaining that putting words to paper allowed him to “explain myself uninterrupted.

Even the suspicious among us, who wonder whether this actually was James talking or someone from his management team, must admit that if nothing else, he shows increased awareness in having hired advisers who “get it.” This was no staged TV show with Jim Gray asking alley-oop questions for James to slam home. This time, James expressed himself honestly and eloquently, making sure to disappoint Miami Heat fans with the proper mix of diplomacy and decorum.

The meat of the new maturity, however, is found in what LeBron said, more than how he said it.

“I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver,” he said. “We’re not ready right now. No way.”

What? The reason Cleveland fans are willing to forgive James is because the city is desperate for a championship. But instead of feeding that frenzied beast of expectation, James essentially is saying, “Let’s take this thing slowly.” Dessert comes later. Being all grown up now, he knows to begin with the salad.

But James’ new leadership look goes beyond the quest for titles. After winning two championships with Miami, James realizes that color is not the biggest difference between a home and away jersey. The city on the front matters much more than the nickname. When James wrote in his essay, “I’m coming home,” he was talking about Cleveland, not the Cavaliers.

“But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball,” he said. “I have a responsibility to lead. ... My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from.”

Finally, there is with James an integrity that seemed lacking when he left four years ago. Time will tell, of course. The player who seemed to quit against Boston in Game 5 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals might still be hiding inside that 6-foot-8, 250-pound frame.

But 2014 LeBron is mature enough to entertain that possibility without feeling threatened. He looks in the mirror and sees flaws, which explains why he is willing to play for Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who in 2010 wrote a caustic letter that demeaned James as a cowardly betrayer.

“I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out,” James said. “Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes, as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?”

In the end, Cleveland need not have worried about James being offended by his No. 23 Cavaliers jersey being burned in effigy, or by Gilbert’s letter or by whether the roster was up to snuff. Ultimately, the King made his decision for the good of the kingdom.

“I want to give them hope when I can,” he said. “I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”

Good for Cleveland.

Even better for LeBron.

Oller is a columnist for the Columbus Dispatch. Reach him at

Text Only
  • Maruna headed for Mount

    LeeAnn Maruna never really expected to play collegiate golf. She was so taken aback when the opportunity presented itself, she didn’t know how to respond. After all, the Grand Valley graduate had only been playing the game for a few years.

    July 23, 2014

  • Crate Late Models featured

    The Evergreen Lake Park Campground Crate Late Models, the premier class at Raceway 7, will be featured Friday night as they race for $1,000 to win.

    July 23, 2014

  • Norm He’s the Norm

    In the early part of the 20th century, as golf was taking off in popularity, it was not uncommon for boys to take up the game after becoming caddies.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Don A Don McCormack column: The journey is what’s most important

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, you’ve heard over and over and over how it’s been a half-century since one of Cleveland’s big three professional sports teams have won a championship.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Murdick wins as Big Block Modifieds return

    The BRP Big Block Modifed Tour returned to Raceway 7 with 21 of the region’s fastest Modifieds turning out for the scheduled 35-lap event, the first for the Modifieds at the northeast Ohio speedplant since 2005, an event won by Todd Burley.

    July 21, 2014

  • Dale Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Chances for controlled waterfowl hunting

    Waterfowl hunters are invited to participate in special drawings for controlled hunting opportunities, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife. The drawing dates and times are as follows:

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kingsville gets it done

    In a rematch of a previous softball clash between the Kingsville 9-10-year-olds and those from Conneaut, Kingsville had settled thing quickly and decisively in a mercy-rule triumph.

    July 20, 2014

  • TD Club golf A Chris Larick column: TD Club hopes to score

    Though its life was never seriously threatened, the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club has suffered in recent years.

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Don A Don McCormack column: A heartfelt plea to curb violence

    Like everyone who loves soccer — and the rest of us whose interest level rises dramatically every four years when the World Cup comes around — Kevin Meier was appalled at the recent attack of soccer referee John Bieniewicz in Michigan by a player that resulted in Bieniewicz tragically dying.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • valor A valiant effort

    Paralympians from all over the United States experienced three days of competition, education and fun during the Valor Games Gold Medal Camp at Spire this weekend.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

Little League All-Stars July 1 to 12
AP NASCAR Lastest News
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule
AP NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings
AP Auto Racing Photos
West Side Shootout 2014
Ashtabula County at State Track Meet
Jefferson vs Akron St. Vincent St. Mary Regional Softball
District Track 2014
Jefferson District Softball Tournament
Bob Walters 50 Years
Geneva vs Perry Division II District Semifinal
Sports Week in Review May 12 to May 17
Sports Week in Review May 5 to May 10 2014
Sports Week in Review April 28 to May 3
Sports Video Archive
House Ads
AP Video