LeBron James - not for the first time in his illustrious 11-year professional career - brought the NBA world to a virtual standstill last weekend, confirming the juiciest of rumours that had hinted that the four-time MVP was set to abandon the Miami Heat in favour of an extraordinary return to Cleveland.
In a league where the daily news agenda is so often dominated by its very biggest stars, this was a truly incredible turn of events given all the controversy and sheer hostility that surrounded James' original free agent departure from his home state of Ohio just four summers ago.
The right decision
The 29-year-old, by his own honest admission, badly misjudged that particular announcement, with fanatical Cavaliers fans - who waited with baited breath as James revealed his choice live on television - so incensed by his defection to South Beach that swathes of them felt obliged to take to the streets and set fire to the number 23 jerseys they had previously worn with such pride and adulation.
Such a volatile reaction was only matched by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, whose response to losing James in such controversial fashion was to pen a rather unkind letter that remained for all to find on the team website until it was mysteriously removed in the build-up to recent events.
While the merits of his unbelievable homecoming continue to be debated by experts, players and supporters alike, I remain utterly convinced that James made the correct decision and in doing so made amends for that unsavoury episode, as well as helping to cement a durable legacy that will help to set him apart as truly one of the greatest basketball competitors of all-time.
Despite having to potentially re-negotiate his salary to allow president Pat Riley the freedom to provide further supplementary pieces capable of helping the Heat's so-called 'Big Three' , it would have been all too simple for James to remain in Miami.
Indeed, it has to be considered far more likely that staying put would have offered him the best chance of adding to his two NBA championships - although the slightly underwhelming signings of Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger may suggest otherwise - but James displayed a commendable maturity and a real commitment to his home state to spurn the glamour of the Heat to improve the Cavs' chances of delivering their fervent fanbase a first-ever title.
Akron native James' impact on the court back in a Cleveland uniform should be just as instrumental as his influence on impressionable youngsters back in his home community.
While I am certainly not for one moment suggesting that the Cavs will find themselves instantly upgraded to genuine championship contenders thanks to James' arrival, one must assume that his presence will at least elevate their young, talented but inexperienced roster into a top-four team in the notably weak Eastern Conference.
Already possessing a potentially elite point guard in Kyrie Irving, James' experience and leadership can radically improve the 22-year-old's near non-existent defense under rookie head coach David Blatt and encourage improvement from the likes of Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, two talented players whose respective careers appear to be on the verge of stagnation.
His impact on fellow number-one draft pick Andrew Wiggins - providing he is not packaged in a trade to Minnesota in return for a certain Kevin Love, of course - could also be hugely defining.
The former Kansas prodigy comes into the NBA with a huge reputation to live up to and James' own knowledge and ability to channel such overwhelming pressure into positive performance could hasten his development.
Even Anthony Bennett should reap the plentiful rewards of seeing James back at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Canadian power forward endured a miserable season after his own surprise selection at number one in the 2013 draft, with his performances and application scrutinised on a weekly basis as he evidently struggled to adapt to the formidable transition from college ball.
The continued presence of Anderson Varejao will come as an additional source of comfort for James, with the Brazilian center regarded as one of his favourite teammates.
Miami will survive
To their credit, the majority of Miami fans appear to have stopped short of eternally condemning James for this most shocking of moves.
Nevertheless, he has still received a great deal of criticism from certain Florida outlets, who certainly may have a right to feel aggrieved at such a monumental loss that was not truly foreseen by anyone until the delay in James announcing his future led to sudden speculation that considerable change was afoot.
The truth of the matter is, Miami will be fine in the long-run. Seeing a player of James' frightening caliber depart is bound to have a devastating effect on any team in any sport, but his move does not appear to have sparked the anticipated exodus and Riley and team owner Micky Arison are not two men known to be content to rest on their laurels.
Chris Bosh should relish the opportunity of being the team's number-one offensive option having spurned the Houston Rockets and committed his future to the franchise on a max contract, while Dwayne Wade remains an elite performer when his troublesome knees allow him onto the court.
Luol Deng - who signed for the Heat earlier this week after leaving Cleveland - is certainly not a match for James in terms of pure talent, but his hard-working nature and ability to have a major impact on both ends of the floor will help to ensure that Miami do not slide into the lottery without trace.
A defining legacy
Ultimately, with many considering James deserving of a lofty billing alongside the great Michael Jordan as the most-talented player ever to grace the NBA, he needed to do something that would forever set him apart from his contemporaries and erase the painful memories of the now infamous 'decision' which caused such an upsetting rift between him and the people who once held him up as an idol.
A genuinely heartfelt return to Cleveland - a move which was secured in a mature respectable fashion and should instantly radically alter the entire basketball landscape in America - will surely do just that.
This choice also went far beyond the sport of basketball. This was about James as a person, what he wants to achieve and how he wants to be remembered as human being. One can only respect that and praise him for seeking to atone for that past misdemeanour which was the only thing that stopped him being recognised as a true sporting great in the eyes of so many.
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