LeBron James Homecoming and the Power of the Past


By Paul Levine

This is not only about the LeBron James homecoming.   It’s about us all.

In Miami, we are coming to grips with LeBron leaving.  Nearly everyone respects his decision.  He didn’t leave the Miami Heat for the glamour of New York or the glitz of  L.A.   He went home.

LeBron James Homecoming: Home Trumps All

My son Mike Levine, a Miami sportscaster, just wrote me an e-mail, saying:  “Home usually trumps all and wins the heart.”

It’s true for the LeBron James homecoming.  Cleveland wins, not because the Cavaliers’ have potential with talented young players, but because it is home.

As Dorothy says at the end of “The Wizard of Oz”:

“Toto, we’re home. Home…And I’m not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and – oh, Auntie Em – there’s no place like home!”

So it is with the Wizard of Akron.  (Okay, so maybe he’ll vacation in spots a little more exotic than northeastern Ohio. Maybe he’ll even hang onto his  Miami home).

LeBron James Homecoming
The LeBron James Homecoming: The Superstar Wrote an Essay About His Reasons for the Return.

In his heartfelt Sports Illustrated essay, Lebron writes:

“I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get. In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”

My son said that passage reminded him of my blog last October about planning a homecoming trip to Penn State, which ended with this:

“I will take a time machine to an earlier, simpler time of pep rallies and pop quizzes, of crisp autumn air and all-nighters. A time when the future was without limits and possibilities were endless. It is homecoming, and I am going home.”

LeBron James Homecoming Trees
My homecoming dreams always involve autumn leaves.

(If you are so inclined, you can read the entire blog, “Homecoming Weekend: It’s Not Just a Football Game,” here.)

Speaking of time machines and going home, just last week, I watched “Walking Distance,” a first season (1959) episode of “The Twilight Zone.” It’s about a stressed-out executive (Gig Young) who yearns for the innocence of boyhood.  He finds his old hometown frozen in time 25 years earlier and re-visits his 11-year-old self. But as he learns, there’s no place for him there now.

LeBron James Homecoming: Twilight Zone
Rod Serling and “The Twilight Zone”

Here’s Rod Serling’s closing narration:

“Martin Sloan, age 36. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives—trying to go home again. And also like all men perhaps there’ll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he’ll look up from what he’s doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there’ll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he’ll smile then too because he’ll know it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man’s mind, that are a part of The Twilight Zone.”

I trust that the LeBron James homecoming is not based on such an “errant wish,” but rather on the solid underpinnings of wanting to help the place (and the people) that formed him.

LeBron James Homecoming: What Has Changed?

LeBron James has matured, not just as a basketball player. On the court, he is as unselfish a superstar who has ever played the game. He makes the players around him better.  In his private life, he is a loving husband and a doting father. He just displayed the most human of emotions: he yearns for home. When he gets there, he will notice changes from his high school days in Akron and his years as a young pro in Cleveland. Nothing stays the same.

He will be welcomed, not so much as a prodigal son, but as a conquering hero. Those of us in Miami are thankful for the four years he spent here. Go home in peace and triumph. Godspeed.

(Paul Levine is the author of the Jake Lassiter and Solomon vs. Lord series. His most recent book is “State vs. Lassiter,” currently nominated for a 2014 Shamus Award).

Miami Heat Big Three Eat Salads; Mickey Mantle Turns in Grave

Miami Heat Big Three

Miami Heat Big Three Veg Out

Actual News Item: The Miami Heat Big Three, LeBron James, Dwywane Wade, and Chris Bosh, were spotted EATING SALADS at the Soho Beach House Wednesday, presumably discussing whether to take pay cuts in order to remain the key ingredients of the NBA franchise.

The Soho Beach House is a fancy oceanfront hotel/club/spa a few blocks south of the Fontainebleau, but that’s besides the point. It’s the “EATING SALADS” that drew my attention and reminded me of this event, which  may or may not have happened.

The Miami Heat Big Three don't eat here
Mickey Mantle, his wife Merlyn, and Toots Shor

Miami Heat Big Three Do Not Eat Here


Three New York Yankees — Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, and Yogi Berra — sit down for lunch.

“What do you want to eat, Billy?” Mantle asks.

“I’m thinking about the kale salad with sliced pear and walnuts, balsamic vinaigrette on the side,” Martin says.

Mantle watches a waiter rush by, carrying a massive platter of calf’s liver covered in onions and surrounded by bacon. “What about you, Yogi?”

“Nuttin’ fancy,” Berra says. Maybe the arugula salad with walnuts. Hold the dressing.”

No Miami Heat Big Three here
Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin on their way to church.

“I’m thinking about sliced ahi,” Mickey says.

“Ain’t you heard about mercury poisoning?” Berra shoots back.

“Right.” Mantle goes back to studying the menu.

Toots Shor comes by the table with Jackie Gleason, who’s holding his usual glass of ginger ale. They slap the guys on the back, crack wise and move on, discussing the world situation, which is to say, how the New York Football Giants will do this Fall.

No Miami Heat Big Three at Toots
Toots Shor and Jackie Gleason enjoy their non-alcoholic beverages.

Mantle watches a diner at an adjacent table, wolfing down chopped hip sirloin covered in fried onion rings. “I think I’ll go for the mixed greens with extra frisee,” Mantle says, finally.

“Again!” Martin and Berra shout, in derision.

“With a pineapple mango smoothie, low-fat yogurt.”

Early the next morning, which is to say 10:30 a.m., Mantle awakens with start. “Jeez, hon, I had a terrible nightmare.”

“What about?” his wife, Merlyn, asks. “You sleeping here two nights in a row?”

“No, worse. What the hell is kale, anyway?”


Would Miami Heat Big Three Get a Table at Toots Shor’s?

While we await the Miami Heat Big Three decision — on their contracts, not lunch — let me pass on this great anecdote about Toots Shor, restauranteur and pal to celebrities and athletes.

Miami Heat Big Three don't eat here
Toots Shor served lots of things: kale salad was not among them.

One night, the MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer was unhappily standing in line for a table. Spotting Toots, Mayer says: “I hope the food is worth waiting for.” Replied Toots, “It’ll be better’n some of your crummy pictures I stood in line for.” Credit Wikipedia with the story. It’s too good not to be true.

(Paul Levine is the author of the Jake Lassiter and Solomon vs. Lord series. His most recent book is “State vs. Lassiter,” currently nominated for a 2014 Shamus Award).