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Adam Silver hails LeBron James' Cleveland return as 'great moment'

Will LeBron James' return to Cleveland prove to be a good move for the NBA? Commissioner Adam Silver thinks so. Photo: Joe Vaughn/SI

Will LeBron James' return to Cleveland prove to be a good move for the NBA? Commissioner Adam Silver thinks so.

LAS VEGAS — Hesitant to be seen as playing favorites, NBA commissioner Adam Silver nevertheless gave his seal of approval to LeBron James' decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Addressing reporters Tuesday following an NBA Board of Governors meeting, Silver called James a "very special player" and said that his Ohio homecoming was a "great moment" for the league.

"I was moved by [James'] decision," Silver said. "When I read his first-person account on Sports Illustrated, I really was moved by it. It says a lot about who he is, who he has become over the last four years. His statement about northeast Ohio, about hard work [and] this being about something larger than basketball and the NBA."

"What I heard from a lot of owners in the league was, 'I wish my city was [James'] hometown.'"

James announced his decision to sign with the Cavaliers July 11 in an essay with Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins. The Akron, OH, native will return to his home-state Cavaliers, who drafted him in 2003, after spending the last four seasons with the Miami Heat. James wrote that he wants to guide the Cavaliers to their first title in franchise history, while also aiding a community in need.

"Maybe I would have had a different feeling if he was just shopping his services to wherever he thought he could have the greatest chance of winning a championship," Silver said. "Not that that wouldn't have been his right. But I thought that [his choice] to go back to northeast Ohio was an exciting moment for him personally."

Following James' departure in 2010, the Cavaliers have struggled through four consecutive lottery seasons, while the Heat advanced to the Finals four straight times and won two titles. Since Friday, Heat president Pat Riley scrambled to re-sign Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, while also inking Luol Deng, in an attempt to avoid a major step backward.

"Miami is an incredibly well-run franchise [and] I respect everything they've done over the last four years," Silver said. "They've had tremendous success with [James]. Ultimately that's his right to make that decision ... I understand it's Miami's loss, but that's always going to be the issue when you have such a transcendent player.

​​​ "What I heard from a lot of owners in the league was, 'I wish my city was [James'] hometown.'"

The four-time MVP and Silver have expressed mutual admiration on multiple occasions in recent years, and the two are said to have a strong working relationship. However, the first-year commissioner said he did not receive any advance warning about James' plans, noting that he found out on Twitter like most of the NBA world.

Although the NBA's free agency moratorium opened on July 1, James did not announce his decision until July 11. Business around the league ground to a halt, waiting on the James domino to fall, and speculation about his intentions ran rampant around the clock on television and social media. Silver painted the frenzied conjecture and the busy free agency period as good signs for the NBA.

"From a macro standpoint, all the movement was very positive for the league," Silver said. "The coverage has been fantastic ... For the league, all the speculation, all the chatter around Carmelo [Anthony] and what the players would do. Ultimately as a fan it was very exciting. You want to strike the right balance. I think a certain amount of free agent movement is positive. It creates a sense of renewal in a lot of markets." 

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