King’s return: LeBron’s value to Cleveland franchise, city

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Much like his uncanny ability on the basketball court, the LeBron James Decision 2.0 was all about foresight, calculation and precise execution. The Prodigal Son’s triumphant return to Cleveland after a four-year championship exodus in South Florida not only turns the hapless Cavaliers into immediate title contenders, but also addresses blemish on LeBron’s legacy — the wrath of Ohio.

Clearly LeBron, after two NBA titles and four finals appearances in Miami, has a new approach toward his boundless brand. The redemptive aspirations and mending of fences signifies a new level of maturity and self-awareness for the NBA’s four-time most valuable player, understanding that bringing just one trophy to championship-starved Cleveland would hold more weight than a litany of titles elsewhere. That’s why his new two-year, $42.2 million deal represents the ideal reconciliation that combines both the heroic, emotional angle of returning to the hometown team that drafted him with the superstar’s business savvy, while at the same time synchronizing his next payday with the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement expected in 2016. But the contract itself reflects only a fraction of LeBron’s worth to the Cavaliers franchise, and the potential impact that his decision will have on Northeast Ohio. According to Forbes, the impact is immense:

“LeBron’s return to Cleveland immediately elevates the Cavaliers franchise value by at least $100 million-to-$150 million, in the same neighborhood (or slightly past) similar smaller-market teams with both past success and star power like San Antonio and Oklahoma City (currently at 10th and 11th on the list at $660 million and $590 million respectively).  This is because tickets sales will be more robust, and the organization will have an easier time selling luxury suites, premium seats, sponsorships, and arena signage.”

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Never mind the Cavs going from the Eastern Conference Finals to a 19-win season, Forbes estimates that LeBron’s departure in 2010 cost Cleveland’s local businesses upwards of $200 million, with attendance at Quicken Loans Arena dropping from second in the NBA to 19th. LeBron’s decision to take his talents back the shores of Lake Erie will change all that — his presence alone ensures that the Cavaliers franchise and the city of Cleveland will reap the economic benefits as NBA royalty once again.

And as the league’s best player settles into his old but new role as hometown hero, Cleveland embarks on its next chapter. The city and superstar, finally reunited, seeking a championship that would be Cleveland’s first and LeBron’s greatest.

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