CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN)-
After four years away, King James is sensationally taking his throne back to Cleveland.
LeBron James told Sports Illustrated for a story published Friday that he’ll leave the Miami Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers — a bombshell return to his home region that he devastated when he left via free agency in 2010.
“I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there,” the four-time NBA MVP said in a piece he wrote with SI’s Lee Jenkins. “I just didn’t know when.”
“I looked at other teams,” he wrote, “but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.”
After winning two NBA championships in Miami and appearing in four straight NBA finals, the league’s biggest active star this summer exercised his Heat contract’s option to become a free agent two years early.
The move comes four years after he and marquee free agent Chris Bosh left their teams to join Dwyane Wade in Miami — with James famously announcing his move in an ESPN special called “The Decision.”
James’ 2010 departure — and the way he did it, on television — rankled the people of Cleveland, with fans burning James jerseys and stomping on his likeness.
But Friday’s announcement by the prodigal son — he grew up some 45 miles away, in Akron — generated excitement in the lakeside city long starved for a professional sports championship. Car horns honked as the news spread, CNN’s Martin Savidge reported from the city.
“We welcome you back with open arms. Glad you’re home!,” Cavaliers fan Corey Adams posted on the Facebook page of CNN affiliate WEWS.
“Cleveland fans are trying to figure out how to unburn their LeBron jerseys,” Twitter user nic_johnston44 wrote.
Micky Arison, the Heat owner who helped lure James away in 2010, said on Twitter that he was “shocked & disappointed in today’s news.”
“However I will never forget what Lebron brought us for 4 years. Thanks for memories @KingJames,” Arison’s post said.
James: Bringing trophy to Cleveland “most important”
James’ Instagram account Friday had a photo, showing him in a Cavaliers jersey, said: “I’m coming home.”
In the SI piece, James wrote that when he left Cleveland, he was “on a mission.”
“I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling,” James wrote. “Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question.
“But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”
White House takes notice
The news generated intense interest as soon as it broke, around 12:30 p.m. Friday. Three of the top 10 trending terms on Twitter were almost instantly related to James.
It even came up in the daily press briefing at the White House. When asked, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he didn’t know if noted NBA fan President Obama had a reaction to James’ move. But Earnest added: “The fact that he has made this decision is a testament to the kinds of values that he has incorporated into his life and he says that he is interested in instilling in his children.”
“I think it is a pretty powerful statement about the value of a place that you consider home,” Earnest said.
By Jason Hanna, Michael Pearson and Eliott C. McLaughlin
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