Cleveland Says Goodbye To LeBron James, Again
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is leaving his hometown again. The four-time NBA MVP has signed a four-year, nearly $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. And as you might guess, folks in LA are a little bit excited. But before we get to that, Nick Castele of member station WCPN ideastream reports on how fans in Cleveland are reacting to LeBron's departure.
NICK CASTELE, BYLINE: I'm outside Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland. It's in the middle of a $140 million renovation, about half financed by the public. The Cavaliers wanted to update the Q for the future, but now that future won't include the star who carried the team to multiple NBA finals. The last time LeBron James left Cleveland eight years ago, people didn't take it so well.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Burn it. Burn it. Burn it. Burn it.
CASTELE: Some fans infamously burned T-shirts and jerseys after James announced the decision to go to the Miami Heat, but today the tone is much different.
MELVIN DAVIS: At the end of the day, I think he did it much better than he did it in 2010. And he delivered on what he came back here to do.
CASTELE: Melvin Davis is talking about James' promise to bring a trophy to this championship-starved city.
DAVIS: Yeah, he said - and I remember his quote - I'm going to win one for the land.
CASTELE: In 2016, down a daunting 3 games to 1, James carried the Cavs back to a Game 7 win against the Golden State Warriors. Many people here say they're grateful that LeBron James got it done, though Adam Offenberger is a bit envious of the NBA's Western Conference now.
ADAM OFFENBERGER: California's got the Warriors. Now with LeBron going to the Lakers, it's just kind of like everything's out West - kind of little imbalanced there but wish him the best, really. But, you know, it still stings a little bit for sure.
CASTELE: When LeBron James left in 2010, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert struck out at him, calling the move an act of disloyalty. But what a difference a championship makes. Now he says he looks forward to retiring LeBron James' jersey. James bid farewell to Cavs fans on Instagram, saying northeast Ohio would always be his home. And his involvement here continues with his family foundation. Many here, like Joe Toledo, have no ill will toward the superstar this time around.
JOE TOLEDO: He played his heart out when he was here. The guy is just a stand-up guy.
CASTELE: The Cleveland Plain Dealer sports section today summed it up in a two-word headline - "Promise Kept." For NPR News, I'm Nick Castele in Cleveland.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.