CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James says he is coming home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Anticipation had been high Friday as the prized free agent pondered whether to leave the Miami Heat, where he won two league titles, to return here to Cleveland, where he started his pro career with the Cavaliers.
Just after noon, however, it was announced that James told Sports Illustrated that he decided to come home. It's a move that would have seemed unfathomable four years ago, after the venomous fallout that followed his decision to leave Cleveland for the Miami Heat.
James told SI: "My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now."
There's been speculation all week about what James would choose to do. Friday, there was talk that a letter written by Dan Gilbert back in 2010 was a sticking point for LeBron. That didn't seem to be the case in what LeBron told Sports Illustrated.
Dan Gilbert tweeted a message Friday welcoming him back.
Welcome Home @kingjames. I am excited for the fans and people of Cleveland and Ohio. No fans and people deserve a winner more than them.....
— Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) July 11, 2014
James arrived in Miami early today after a stay in Las Vegas. While in Vegas, James attended a basketball camp and met with Heat president Pat Riley.
James' decision seemed to be a surprise for Micky Arison, managing general partner for the Heat.
I am shocked & disappointed in today's news. However I will never forget what Lebron brought us for 4 years. Thanks for memories @KingJames
— Micky Arison (@MickyArison) July 11, 2014
Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement, "While I am disappointed by LeBron's decision to leave Miami, no one can fault another person for wanting to return home. The last four years have been an incredible run for South Florida, HEAT fans, our organization and for all of the players who were a part of it. LeBron is a fantastic leader, athlete, teammate and person, and we are all sorry to see him go."
James also made his announcement on his Facebook page and on Twitter Friday afternoon:
Just posted a photo http://t.co/lmByEY8T7Q
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 11, 2014
James spent his first seven NBA seasons in Cleveland. In four years with the Heat, he went to the NBA Finals four times, winning two championships.
And now, he heads back to Cleveland to see if he can finally deliver on his promise of winning a crown for that title-starved city.
Stick with Fox 8 and Fox8.com for more on this developing story.