Rumor: LeBron James could return to Heat if Cavaliers win championship

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Go back a couple months. LeBron James was sending cryptic tweets, unfollowing the Cavaliers on Twitter, showing contempt for his teammates, saying he wanted to play with Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. LeBron’s associates reportedly insisted he could leave Cleveland again in free agency if the Cavs mistreated him.

The Cavaliers thought it was possible LeBron would leave – if they flamed out in the playoffs.

But maybe they had the situation backward.

Stephen A. Smith of ESPN:

I’ll drop one other tidbit of information, because people have been ignoring what I’ve been saying. I’ve hinted around it for months as you well know. But I’m going to say this again.

LeBron James promised the city of Cleveland, “I’m coming back to bring you that elusive title that has escaped this city since 1964.” He never said anything about staying once he does accomplish that.

I’m in Miami last week. I’m in Miami a few months ago. Skip Bayless, I’m hearing about a return to Miami if this man wins. He ain’t going nowhere if he loses. But, if he wins, his options are open. LA, but especially Miami, a return to South Beach.

Look man, there’s a lot going on. And there’s a lot riding on him winning. Losing changes everything, because it keeps there in Cleveland. But more importantly, it keeps him stuck, because he knows he can’t leave until he fulfills his promise. And if you can’t because you’re not a champion, that’s far worse than just choosing to stay because you want to.

It’s going to get very interesting. Keep your eyes on it.

This sounds crazy. But at one point, it seemed unlikely LeBron would leave his hometown team with a nationally televised announcement – and he did that. It once seemed downright impossible he’d return to Cleveland – and he did that. So, I’m reluctant to rule anything out.

It’s also worth revisiting his Sports Illustrated letter:

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.

I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t 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 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.

LeBron doesn’t explicitly promise to retire a Cavalier, nor does he promise to win a title for Northeast Ohio. But as much as he promises one, he promises the other.

So, if he leads the Cavs to a title then uses that as an excuse to bolt, that would strike me as pretty disingenuous spin of his original message.

But it doesn’t matter how I view it. It matters how LeBron sees it.

And, as we’ve seen, that’s difficult to predict from the outside.