Two-time Olympic gold medalist LeBron James has announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers- the team where he began his NBA professional career 11 years ago.
The basketball star and four-time recipient of the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, made the announcement in an interview with Sport Illustrated on Friday.
James opted out of the final two years of his Miami Heat contract on July 1 and has being a free-agent since then.
He would have raked in a sum of $42.7 in the two years left on his deal, but has revealed a decision to return to his home state of Ohio was always on his mind.
“I always believed I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there,” said James, who hails from Akron, 40 miles from Cleveland.
“But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my home town.
“I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it feels right. This is what makes me happy.”
James joined the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first overall draft pick in 2003 and rose to superstardom over the next seven years before he was priced away by Miami Heat in July 2010.
His move to the Heat, where he formed a formidable partnership with fellow 2003 draftees Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, led to a backlash from Cleveland fans who burned his Jersey in anger.
My 8-year-old: "Daddy, does this mean I can finally wear my Lebron jersey, again?"…Yes it does, son. Yes it does!
— Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) July 11, 2014
He won NBA titles with the Heat in 2012 and 2013 and also witnessed the 2011 and 201 NBA finals, when they lost to the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs respectively.
“The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys,” James said on his time at the Heat. “I’ve talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. We are brothers for life.”
Meanwhile, back in Miami a mural featuring James was defaced- according to South Florida news station WPLG Local 10.
I am shocked & disappointed in today's news. However I will never forget what Lebron brought us for 4 years. Thanks for memories @KingJames
— Micky Arison (@MickyArison) July 11, 2014
Heat owner Micky Arison tweeted: “I am shocked and disappointed in today’s news. However I will never forget what LeBron brought us for four years. Thanks for the memories.”