LeBron James is the most powerful athlete in sports.
He has the ability to turn his most loyal fans into a seething mob, making thousands of people buy his jersey before causing them to burn it.
He can single-handedly hold an entire league hostage, halting free agency until his fate is chosen. After all, his decision is “The Decision.”
His presence literally doubles the value of franchises, like it did for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who just increased their worth to more than $1 billion thanks to his return.
He sells out arenas, alters television-viewing habits, commands attention everywhere he goes and sets trends.
Love him or hate him, he is as big as the sport itself, and it is due to one thing — James is the best basketball player in the solar system. And it is not even close.
Nobody has the skillset James possesses. He scores like Carmelo Anthony, rebounds like Dwight Howard, passes like John Wall, blocks shots like Serge Ibaka, handles the ball like Ricky Rubio and plays defense like Joakim Noah.
Kevin Durant might argue, but much like Michael Jordan or Shaquille O’Neal in their prime, regardless of who is named MVP, everyone knows who is the league’s best player, and the award has belonged to James practically since he graduated high school.
With Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, who was irrelevant both before and after his stint with the Cavaliers, and an aging Zydrunas Ilgauskas serving as his sidekicks, James took Cleveland to the Finals.
Yes Cleveland. You know, “The Shot,” “The Drive,” and “The Fumble.” That Cleveland.
For that feat alone, the guy probably deserves his own wing in the Hall of Fame. Instead, he became the bane of a city’s existence upon leaving for Miami, where he earned a pair of rings.
James’ home state fans hated every second of his tenure with the Heat. Well, except for 2011 and 2014; they loved the culmination of those years.
Any Miami loss was a victory for Ohio, which quickly became a state of contempt in regards to James.
Funny how time changes things.
Four years later, James is returning home to open arms. By signing the dotted line, all has been forgiven, proving he is the most powerful athlete in sports.
Like a phoenix, he has the
ability to rise from the ashes of burnt jerseys. He can force Cavaliers’ billionaire owner Dan Gilbert to sign a check after signing a bitter, hate-filled letter in 2010.
He can make an entire fan base forget all about that time he took his talents to South Beach.
James left the Cavaliers to join superstars, but he returns to help create them. Make no mistake about it, though, young roster and all, Cleveland is the favorite to win the conference.
Any team with James on it has to be — even Cleveland. He is that good.
The roles are reversed, and now Miami must learn to live with the pain of being abandoned. The Heat must now find a way to be relevant without the game’s biggest star.
James gave Miami an incredible four-year run, but with a snap of his fingers, the power has shifted.
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com