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From late-arriving to a LeBron James favorite, Kevin Love comes full circle

Aug 26, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

Kevin Love didn’t immediately trust LeBron James.

Repeatedly during the 2012 Olympics, LeBron sat near Love and praised the then-Timberwolves forward. Love didn’t know whether to take the compliments at face value or… Really, he didn’t know what to do.

So, Love brushed it off.

At the All-Star Game the next season, which Love missed due to injury, the pair spoke again in greater depth. Finally, Love was convinced – LeBron appreciated his game, and a real bond formed.

Now, Love and LeBron are teammates in Cleveland.

“It just goes to show you that things come full circle,” Love said today at his introductory press conference with the Cavaliers.

LeBron couldn’t have known in 2012 he’d ever have the chance to play with Love two years later, but the players developed a mutual respect for each other in London. By this summer, Love was unhappy in Minnesota, and LeBron was a free agent. By signing in Cleveland, LeBron set into motion Love joining him.

“I was the first call that he made after he signed,” Love said, “and I’m very happy about that.”

“LeBron had signed to come back with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Just a few hours post, he called me, and I said, ‘You know what? I’m in.’ That had a lot do with my decision.”

It’s a little funny – if you don’t understand how much power NBA superstars wield – to hear Love call this arrangement “his decision.” After all, Love is under contract for next season and technically had no control where the Timberwolves trade him. His main realistic influence was the ability to opt in as a condition of a deal, but it doesn’t seem that happened here.

However, there was a report Love promised to opt out and re-sign for five years next summer. Given that such a scheme would violate NBA rules, Love – sitting next to Cavaliers general manager David Griffin –  of course gave no details when asked how long he’d stay in Cleveland.

“That is something that hasn’t been talked about, but like I told Griff in our meetings and Dan Gilbert as well and the powers that be in the front office and all the way down that I’m committed to this team,” Love said. “Committed long term to that end goal, and that’s to win championships and to win a championship here in Ohio.”

Winning a championship is something the Cavaliers have never done and something any major pro team in Cleveland hasn’t done since 1964.

Love, a student of the game, is mindful of that history. It showed when he discussed his change to No. 0.

His number in Minnesota, 42, has been retired by the Cavaliers for Nate Thurmond. Love praised Thurmond and appreciated his willingness to let Love wear the number, but ultimately, Love wanted a fresh start.

His Olympic number, 11, was also retired – for Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Love’s third choice – 7, which his mom considered lucky for him – was retired for Bingo Smith.

That left one other option.

Love told a story of joining a new team growing up in Oregon, and he was the last to arrive for a tournament. Nearly every jersey had been taken.

“There was the 0 for me,” said Love, likely the last major domino to fall this offseason.

“It really brings me back to Portland, which is Oregon, the O,” Love said. “And then as Griff told me later in a text too, when I told him what number I was going to choose, he also said can’t forget Ohio, too. And he’s right.”

Full circle indeed.

  1. phinagain - Aug 26, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Give this team some credit for winning the PR championship. There are no fewer superstars flocking to this team than when LeBron came to Miami. They just changed the storyline from the “king’s legacy” to “let’s win one for the home team in small-town America.”

    Fans and the national media bit on it hook, line, and sinker and the whole Cavs organization has been pandering ever since. It’s a total snow job, and media outlets are just lapping it all up as fast as Cleveland can put it out there.

    • sportsfan18 - Aug 26, 2014 at 5:22 PM

      tis what sheeple do…

    • antistratfordian - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:17 PM

      “let’s win one for the home team in small-town America.”

      But that’s basically why everyone loves the story. It’s not that anybody is being fooled, but that region of the country has been struggling and Americans don’t seem to care about how the Cavs built their team. People are rooting for Cleveland now as a proxy for rooting for the ideal of Middle America. They want to see people there win something, rather than in the glamour cities of Miami or Los Angeles or New York.

      It’s one hell of an apology from LeBron for him to want to bring his gravity to Cleveland, in other words, and Americans seem to like that.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        “People are rooting for Cleveland now as a proxy for rooting for the ideal of Middle America.”

        Yeah… no. No one cares about the “ideal of Middle America”, whatever the hell that is supposed to be.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 27, 2014 at 6:51 PM

        Says the dude in SoCal. That’s why nobody likes you guys. You don’t get it.

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 27, 2014 at 6:58 PM

        What is there to get? Bad weather? Bad economy? Bible Belt “Values”? I lived in the Midwest for a few years, and while the skiing is awesome, there’s not really any other redeeming values. There’s a reason why the majority of the population lives on the coasts.

    • avb300 - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:45 PM

      To be young, rich, famous and a top 10 bball player in the world…not to mention playing with the best player in the world. Talk about living the dream. Damn.

  2. volcom2143 - Aug 26, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    Pretty sure the dude wore 42 in minny . Just saying ….

    • unfortunateminnesotasportsfan - Aug 26, 2014 at 6:44 PM

      Says right in the article he wore 42.. lol. Whats your point?

  3. innovativethinking87 - Aug 26, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    Kevin Love would have def joined up with Damian Lillard if there was no Aldridge.. KLove loves his hometown

  4. andreboy1 - Aug 26, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    I’m tired of these guys being called “students of the game”.

    The number was retired. Love’s never been in the playoffs. End of story.

    The jock sniffing NBA media ( Mike Wilbon) act like LBJ is some astute historian knowing every detail of NBA basketball.

  5. rustyshackleford1 - Aug 26, 2014 at 6:57 PM

    didn’t realize he was a free agent, lol

  6. smoothaswilkes - Aug 26, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    “I was the first call that he made after he signed,” Love said…

    The NBA should just get rid of their “collusion” rule. It’s never enforced and, worse yet, it’s just insulting to everyone for these players to act like they aren’t colluding. I can’t prove what James said to Love during the first phone call he made after signing with Cleveland, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t calling just to see what Love had for lunch that day.

    • Kevin S. - Aug 26, 2014 at 11:05 PM

      There’s no rule preventing players from recruiting each other.

  7. csbanter - Aug 26, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    Heat fans were over the top with Lebron, but that was nothing compared to all the fawning over the Cavs by PBT writers and fanboys on these boards.

  8. divan22 - Aug 26, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    One superstar attracts other superstars in their prime, another (Kobe) drives them away.

    How is Kobe’s attitude/temperament better for his team than LeBron’s, again?

    Yet ANOTHER thing LeBron’s FAR better at.

  9. loyalraven - Aug 26, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    The commenters before me need to buckle their helmet straps, I’d hate to find out they got hurt bumping their gigantic swollen water heads on an end table crawling around on the floor look for their animal crackers…A lot of challenged people love you PBT, just saying…

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