In a fairly stunning move, LEBRON JAMES is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He made the announcement in a LOVE LETTER written to the city of Cleveland that was posted on the "Sports Illustrated" website on Friday.
Up until about a week ago, a lot of people assumed that LeBron would re-sign with the Miami Heat . . . and that Cleveland was one of his LEAST likely destinations.
Even when rumors started circulating last week that LeBron was considering the Cavaliers, it was a little hard to believe. The Cavs haven't been CLOSE to a playoff team since he left four years ago . . .
The Heat made the Finals in each of those four years, winning two titles . . . and there were still some complicated feelings between LeBron, the Cavs and the fans.
But everything changed with LeBron's letter, which was the exact opposite of the egomaniacal TV special he did in 2010 . . . where he announced that he was bailing on his hometown team, and would be "taking his talents to South Beach."
LeBron's letter began, quote, "Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It's where I walked. It's where I ran. It's where I cried. It's where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart.
"People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I'm 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 didn't realize that four years ago. I do now."
He went on to say that if he had to do it all over again, he would've still gone to Miami, although he would've, quote, "obviously [done] things differently." He compared it to leaving home to go to college for four years.
He also revealed that he'd patched things up with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who wrote that INSANE open letter on the night LeBron left, which pulled no punches in lashing out at him.
Quote, "I've met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We've talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I've made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?"
And LeBron had this to say about the fans burning his jerseys, and booing him mercilessly when he came back to Cleveland in a Miami uniform: Quote, "It was easy to say, 'OK, I don't want to deal with these people ever again.'
"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?"
Officially, LeBron signed a two-year, max contract worth $42.1 million, but unless the Cavs totally botch this . . . they can probably expect LeBron to stay for GOOD this time.
In his letter, which was titled "I'm Coming Home", LeBron says he wants to RETIRE in Cleveland. (The whole thing is fantastic. It's mature, touching, and refreshingly honest. He really laid it all out. You can read it, here.)
So why did he only sign for two years? It's mostly a financial move, because the NBA is expected to score a rich new TV deal in 2016, leading to a significant bump in the salary cap. There will be more money for the players . . . so he's lining it up so he can re-sign then, to capitalize on that new mint.
As for the rest of Miami's "Big Three," CHRIS BOSH signed a five-year deal to return to the Heat. It looks like DWYANE WADEmay be back too, but nothing is official yet. Elsewhere in the NBA, CARMELO ANTHONY has re-signed with the New York Knicks.