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George Karl says he could see LeBron returning to Cleveland to play for Cavaliers

Jan 13, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Miami Heats LeBron James looks on during their NBA basketball game against his former team the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland Reuters

We all remember how LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in free agency. It wasn’t pretty, and he even later said he would do things differently if he had the chance.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was famously critical of the way LeBron left the franchise, feeling as though James owed the team that drafted him and employed him for seven seasons more than simply going out with an announcement on national television, rather than giving the team a heads up before doing so.

There are plenty of road blocks in place for James to return to Cleveland, and although he tried to open that door a bit last year by saying he wouldn’t rule that out, it would be tough to see him welcomed back to town by the organization.

As much of a longshot as it may seem, at least one knowledgable observer thinks there’s a possibility it could happen.

From Chris Tomasson of FOXSportsFlorida:

“I think LeBron is at that stage where he’s challenging himself to motivate him to do something that’s maybe more difficult,” Denver coach George Karl told FOX Sports Florida before Friday’s game against Cleveland at the Pepsi Center. “I could see him maybe doing that (returning to the Cavaliers).”

Karl, who coached Cleveland from 1984 to 1986, offered a primary reason why he could see a return by James, an Akron, Ohio, native who played for the Cavaliers from 2003 to 2010 before bolting to Miami when he became a free agent.

“I see (Kyrie) Irving maybe being a reason for that,” Karl said of the reigning Rookie of the Year, who leads Cleveland in scoring with a 23.5 average.

Miami would have to fall completely out of title contention for James to even consider leaving, given the fact that he’s already won a championship there playing alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and that life in South Beach is considerably more desirable than that in Ohio.

But there’s something to be said about coming home again, and if the stars should align just right, James may in fact consider playing for his hometown Cavaliers again — but only in the event that all of his other reasonable options have been exhausted.

  1. thenmoveback - Jan 13, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Maybe he will after he wins not 1 not 2 not 3… Titles with the heat!

    • cantonbound13 - Jan 13, 2013 at 1:36 PM

      So if he leaves with only the one championship (with an asterisk),I can’t wait to see your reaction & your fellow bandwagon fans.

  2. tsutor88 - Jan 13, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    Look up Cleveland tourism video on YouTube. Nobody would want to be caught dead in that town

  3. dls612 - Jan 13, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    Not a dent in the new year and already a LeBron back to Cleveland story! don’t know why its relevant to ask coach Karl that question or him answering it! Fox sport florida ” hey you coached the Cavs in 1984 -1986 do u think someday LeBron will go back to Cleveland? Stop!

  4. agellings - Jan 13, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    Sources confirm James’ longtime interest in playing with Omri Casspi and Shaun Livingston as being the deal sealer.

  5. jessethegreat - Jan 13, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Reminds me of Hulk Hogan. He wanted to try being the heel or villain for a while, but everyone wants to go out being the good guy

    • hojo20 - Jan 13, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      Excellent point, BROOOOOOOTHERRRR!

  6. tsutor88 - Jan 13, 2013 at 11:56 AM


    • nammoumj - Jan 13, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      Yea but Miami was ranked the most miserable city in the US and for good reason.

      First Miami was named America’s vainest city, and now it’s apparently also its most miserable. Forbes compiled a list of the 20 most miserable cities in the U.S., examining 200 of the country’s largest metro areas.

      Read more:

      But hey Miami you are in good company followed by Detroit and Flint….

  7. raidmagic - Jan 13, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    That town, team and fans would welcome him back in a second with open arms!! Anyone that says they wouldn’t is just not smart. There isn’t a team or fanbase in this league that wouldn’t fall all over themselves to sign that guy.
    As for whether or not he would go back is questionable but I could see him chosing to do that. If the Heat keep up with this shoddy play he will tire of it.

  8. eventhorizon04 - Jan 13, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    I could see this happening eventually.
    Dwayne Wade is about to turn 31, while LeBron is 28. Assuming Wade retires around age 34-35, LeBron could decide to head back to the Cavaliers at around age 31-32.

    It’s a bit of a no-lose situation for him – he’d (at least partially) improve his public image in his home state if he came back and tried to get them a championship.
    Of course, the only way to completely repair his image would be winning a championship for a championship-starved city like Cleveland, but even if it didn’t work out, he’d still earn some goodwill for trying.

    I think it becomes a lot more likely if LeBron wins at least 2 more championships while in Miami over the next 4 years, but I think it’s highly unlikely he goes back anytime soon. The Miami Heat’s stars *finally* settled into their roles, and I doubt LeBron leaves and undergoes that process of building team chemistry any time soon.

  9. savvybynature - Jan 13, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    “life in South Beach is considerably more desirable than that in Ohio.”

    Definitely if you are 20-25 years old. If you are a 30+ year old man with children though, and a native of Ohio, maybe not.

    I can tell you as someone who has attended games in both places while Lebron was there, Lebron meant a lot more to the fans in Ohio than he does to the fans in Miami. The Quickens Loans Arena always had an electric, rowdy, playoff-like atmosphere. You just don’t get that in Miami unless it is for the Finals.

    I guess it depends on what one desires. It’s not the same for everyone, as this sentence implies.

  10. jthammerstix - Jan 13, 2013 at 1:36 PM


  11. cantonbound13 - Jan 13, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    To the people living in Cleveland please understand that not all people that live in Miami put your city down, & they also are not Heat fans. I’m embarrassed by the few people on here that are so classless & arrogant attempting to represent the voice of Miami & put down the city of Cleveland.

  12. money2long - Jan 13, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    wanna kno what i was thinking?

    sure, lebron planted seeds of maybe going back to play for cleveland a while ago, himself. lebron is a business man as well as basketball player. he sees a deteriorating, and i hate to use that word because of it’s negative connotation and my high respect for this player, wade. he sees a young kyrie in cleveland, muchh younger than wade and who has a boundless ceiling, and a game improving every time he touches the floor. he sees a varejao, who is playing out of his mind, and wondering what it could have been like if andy v was playing like that while he was in cleveland. they may not keep varejao, but if they know under the table that they have a legit shot to land james in 2014, do they keep him?

    lebron going back to cleveland would do good on some levels. there is NO way the fans of cleveland won’t find a way to welcome them back as his own. he is the premiere athlete in the league, if not the world. and playing at an mvp level and bringing your city a title will mend things to an extent. there will be some stubborn ones, but overall picture, cleveland will be okay with him.

    the fan base in miami must feel they are renting him, maybe.

    the question is dan gilbert. and that’s why i don’t see it happening. if lebron however does choose to one day leave miami, the only team i feel he’d consider is cleveland.

    his status would rise. hometown hero returns. wins them a ring. retires there. why else would he be thinking of going back to his old team. he needs to make things right for his people.

  13. rexgrossman8 - Jan 13, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Money trumps everything. They ran the economic impact when LBJ left Cleveland. To have it restored would be a boon for Cleveland. They would take him back in a heart beat. The perennial title contention, playoff revenue, franchise prestige should also help remove the bitter taste. I wanted to type this post in Comic Sans.

    • nammoumj - Jan 13, 2013 at 3:13 PM

      It is funny because the restaurants and bars near the Arena have actually done pretty much the same business with or without Lebron. Whats the difference between a 2 hour wait and 4 hour wait at the restaurants since they are packed either way.

  14. metalhead65 - Jan 13, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    Nobody would be upset if he returned to play while still in his prime but not as a farewell feel good story. until he makes that choice the cavs and fans owe him nothing. He was worshipped by the fans and paid as much as the rules allowed by the franchise plus given free reign to do what he wanted and bring players he wanted. they owe him nothing!

  15. ljl2 - Jan 13, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    As a lifelong Cavs fan from NE Ohio, I can tell you, he would be accepted easily by fans. Winning cures all.

    Do I think he will? It doesn’t matter. And the team shouldn’t act like its an option until its an option.

    Just a last note, people outside the area talk about it more than people in the area. Then they make fun of Cleveland fans. Move on world. We have.

  16. thegloriousone - Jan 13, 2013 at 10:53 PM

    As a Cleveland sports fan, I don’t ever care if he comes back. Which is probably a good thing since he isn’t coming. He got what he wanted. He never wanted to be here in he first place.

    Cleveland was never cool enough for LeBron.

  17. BigBeachBall - Jan 13, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    You mean he doesn’t want to come back to the town that burned his jersey?
    Don’t forget the Death Threats? Bigoted Owner? the “Please stay Lebron” song?
    Yea, he ain’t comin back…

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