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The Better Decision

July 16, 2014

It was a perfectly written essay—heartfelt and sentimental, touching on emotions that were trampled during 2010’s The Decision. But was it the better decision?

In the 2014 version, a more eloquent, more clear-headed LeBron James no longer made mention of his own talents. Words like “work,” “patience,” and “inspire” were used to paint a picture of humility.

James has flipped the script, turning what was once a presumed tale of betrayal, hedonism, and greed greasily stamped with the Pat Riley seal of approval into a story of forgiveness.

“Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?” he said, addressing the vitriol he received from Cleveland fans and owner Dan Gilbert.

After four years of partying, winning, and learning in Miami, James has decided to return to his hometown and again play the role of hometown hero. But without the theatrics this time.

“I’m coming home.”

Those three words will now replace the infamous “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach,” until of course such time James decides to take his talents to LA or New York. Because as much as James and his publicity team would like to sell this move as one of sentimentality, it’s also the most logical business decision at this point.

With the Miami organization crumbling and Dwyane Wade’s body deteriorating, now seems an opportune time.

After sending the entire basketball world into a frenzy for 10 days, James signed an anti-climactic $42.1 million deal over two years. And that is where the ingenuity comes in.

The second year in the deal is a player option, which allows James to opt out after the 2014-15 season and star in The Decision III: I’m Leaving, Again.

With the deal, the NBA’s current best player not only secured money in the short term, he also, peripherally, secured hoards of cash in the long term.

When the salary cap increases after two years, James can opt out and get paid more. So in his move to Cleveland, not only is he getting—and will be getting—the max money he deserves (and didn’t get in Miami), he now has the leverage to build his own super team in his hometown.

Much like Wade in 2010 when he recruited two of the best players in his draft class, James now has the power to convince the biggest names in the league to take a pay cut and join him in bringing “not one, not two” trophies to Cleveland. All while he is cashing in on Gilbert’s money.

And this time, there is no need to rush.

“We’re not ready right now. No way,” James said, adding that he is now the “old head” in a young team.

An old head in his prime, he failed to mention.

John W. McDonough/SI

He said he will lead the young core of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters to “a place they didn’t know they could go.”

This lineup with James as the leader will surely go far in a weak Eastern Conference, but add another superstar, say Kevin Love, and elite shooters like Mike Miller and Ray Allen into the equation and they can be a better version of the Miami Heat.

In his essay, James also suspiciously did not mention one key teammate, this year’s top pick Andrew Wiggins, who is being rumored to be traded to Minnesota for Love. A big three of James, Irving, and Love sounds about right, doesn’t it?

“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”

James already earned his by leading Miami to four straight Finals appearances, winning twice. Now, he can play basketball without a chip on his shoulder and build his own team in his own terms, while getting paid the max deal.

That’s what two rings—and the right PR angle—can do.