LeBron James is going home.
The 10-time All-Star reached a deal to join the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent, which marks a dramatic reunion with a team he jilted four years ago. James made the announcement in an essay for Sports Illustrated.
James is leaving behind a Miami Heat franchise he joined as a free agent in 2010 before winning two NBA titles and reaching four straight NBA Finals. His move now could have seismic repercussions across the NBA.
In the essay, James, an Ohio native, said his bond with his home state was a big factor in the decision. “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” he said. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
He added winning a championship for Cleveland is “what’s most important” for him now.
James left Cleveland being called disloyal, a narcissist, a coward and a quitter — and that was all by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who wrote that infamous letter blasting James for choosing Miami.
Now James returns to Gilbert’s team, and he said he has worked out his issues with the Cavaliers owner.
“I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out,” James said. “Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?”
Said Gilbert on Twitter, ‘‘I am excited for the fans and people of Cleveland and Ohio. No fans and people deserve a winner more than them.”
James’ departure could mark the end of a Miami’s run as a championship contender.
‘‘I am shocked & disappointed in today’s news,’’ Heat owner Micky Arison wrote on Twitter. ‘‘However I will never forget what Lebron brought us for 4 years. Thanks for memories.’’
James opted out of his contract last month amid speculation that he and fellow free agents Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade would reunite in Miami to continue their run.
But negotiations took a turn away from Miami and a return to Cleveland - which would have been considered improbable four years ago given the bitter reaction to James’ departure for Miami - gained steam this week. The Cavaliers moved players to create salary cap space (including a trade in which they sent a first-round pick to the Celtics) to sign James.
The Cavaliers likely will make more roster moves to add depth around James. They have been linked to free agents Ray Allen and Mike Miller, both former James teammates.
James joins a Cavaliers roster that has a strong nucleus, centered around former No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving.
For the Heat, James’ departure could be a significant blow. It could turn the Heat from a perennial contender and destination for free agents into an NBA wasteland.
James posted this photo to his Instagram account shortly after the news broke:
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