Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. Itís where I walked. Itís where I ran. Itís where I cried. Itís where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like Iím their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didnít realize that four years ago. I do now.
Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating. If I had to do it all over again, Iíd obviously do things differently, but Iíd still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldnít be able to do what Iím doing today.
I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB. We made sacrifices to keep UD. I loved becoming a big bro to Rio. I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And thatís exactly what we did! The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys. Iíve talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. We are brothers for life. I also want to thank Micky Arison and Pat Riley for giving me an amazing four years.
Iím doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I donít want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didnít get along. Ö He and Riles didnít get along. Ö The Heat couldnít put the right team together. Thatís absolutely not true.
Iím not having a press conference or a party. After this, itís time to get to work.
When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasnít had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But whatís most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.
I always believed that Iíd return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didnít know when. After the season, free agency wasnít even a thought. 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 hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasnít going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.
To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned -- seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, ďOK, I donít want to deal with these people ever again.Ē But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? Iíve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. Weíve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. Iíve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?
Iím not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. Weíre not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but Iím realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. Iím going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didnít know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and Iím excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I canít wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.
But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where Iím from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that thereís no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.
In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.
Iím ready to accept the challenge. Iím coming home.