Crooked Scoreboard Exclusive: The LeBron Letter (First Draft)

On Friday, sports fans nearly crashed SI.com in their attempts to read what has become known as “the LeBron Letter.” Coming from the man who made The Decision, the short essay seemed odd. Just words? For reading? Many expected Katy Perry to come jumping out of the screen with a thunderous rendition of “The LeBron Anthem,” but no such song was sung. We do, however, have something almost as good. Long before James’ words got into the hands of Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, they existed as a Microsoft Word document typed out by the man himself. Thanks to our unpaid intern (he’s getting college credit, so it’s all good) and his talent for climbing through windows, we are proud to present the original document.

Author’s note: Thanks guys for publishing my work even though I’m not an experienced writer. I’m going to be honest, just like you told me to. Thanks again, and looking forward to Cleveland it’s gonna be sic [sic].

Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I bought my first Egg McMuffin, and tasted my first drop of that elixir they call Sprite. The people there have seen me grow from a kid in Air Jordans to a man in Nike LeBron XIs. I sometimes feel like I’m their son, or even better, their State Farm agent. Without their help, I would never have been able to sell the products I sell now. Their thriftiness can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope that they can one day taste the refreshing blast of a Dunkaccino. My relationship to money is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.

I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB. They’re a lot better than Mo Williams and JJ Hickson, let me tell you. And Udonis Haslem was okay, I guess. And I was like a big brother to Chalmers, always cleaning up after him and telling him to maybe try and get his shit together once in a while (they say I can do anything, but that job was too tough, even for me). A true icon of the league has to have at least one championship, and those guys helped me do it, sometimes in spite of themselves. And it’s a good thing, too, because no one likes to buy Bubblicious from a loser.

Then I discovered something else: no one likes to buy Bubblicious from an asshole, either. Assholes are way worse than losers, actually! But that’s how more and more people were thinking of me. They didn’t understand that all I did was go away to college. College is a place where people learn to make mistakes; sometimes they get too drunk, plagiarize papers, or sneak a few Pop Tarts out of the dining hall. Or at least that’s what I assume, since I didn’t actually go to there. But just because people do those things in college, they aren’t necessarily drunks, liars, or breakfast pastry thieves. I’m here to tell you I’m not that asshole from college, because that guy is bad for my bottom line.

I can’t just tell you. I have to prove it. So I talked to my wife, my mom, my agent, and my handlers when free agency started. Those people can be tough to deal with, but they were in the room when I made a plan. I had to recover from being the most hated man in the NBA, and a return to Cleveland was the only way to do that. I always believed I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. After the season, free agency wasn’t a thought. I looked at other teams, sure, but I always knew I’d be back in Cleveland. I guess I just wanted to waste the other teams’ time, build some hype about my destination, and maybe make some connections with those big computer companies while I was out on the West Coast (did you really think I’d go to Portland? Come on. They didn’t even have any computer companies! Just a bunch of vegan steakhouses. Gross!). As time passed, my market researchers grew more and more certain Cleveland was the right move. That made me happy, just like you can be when you tune out the world with your Beats By Dre.

I’ve learned throughout this offseason that people love a redemption story. The only way for me to be redeemed in the eyes of the public was to come home again, like in that Bon Jovi song. I’m not promising a championship. In fact, I know we won’t win one for a long time, maybe ever. We have a rookie coach, which means I’ll be the real coach on the floor. Maybe I’ll be able to elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters to passable NBA players. But that’s the beauty of it. By voluntarily going to a bad team in my hometown (the exact opposite of what I did four years ago), I can convince people that I put others ahead of myself. They’ll say I’m humble, loyal, and more mature. I can practically see the tweets coming @KingJames right now!

I don’t need to win championships anymore. I won two of them out of four seasons in Miami, which I calculated as a 50 percent success rate. Now that I’m a proven winner, I can come back to Cleveland and be the LeBron people want me to be. Yeah, I know, Gilbert was a real idiot to me, fans booed me, and some even burned my jersey. To that, I say “even better!” What kind of man is willing to go back into that situation? Especially in the boring old Midwest? A penitent, magnanimous (thanks thesaurus) man, that’s who. Exactly the kind of man who could become the new face of Google!

This is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, and in more ways than one. Two, in fact: financially and monetarily. I was a big part of the Miami economy, but I can practically be the owner of Cleveland. I mean, how much must that place cost, anyway? It doesn’t have a single beach, but it has like 87 Burger Kings. I should get somebody on the phone about that. I should probably put a line in here about my charitable foundation, too. People eat that crap up. What’s it called again?

In Northeast Ohio, they don’t really have anything to give. I have to earn everything. I’ve worked for what I have, and I’ll work for as much more as I can get.

Author’s other note: Let’s keep a lid on the parties and publicity this time, okay? I don’t need people thinking I’m The Wolf of Wall Street. 

I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home. And they better have a PS4 on the jet this time. It’s getting ridiculous.

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