KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
All right now to a couple of big sports stories this weekend. First off, the World Cup final is tomorrow. But right now Brazil and the Netherlands are playing for third place. As we speak, the Netherlands is winning 2-nothing. And the other big sports story right now, NBA star Lebron James is headed back to the team where he got his start. James announced yesterday he'll leave the Miami Heat and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers next season. From member station WCPN, Nick Castele reports that a lot of people in Cleveland are ready to have him back.
NICK CASTELE, BYLINE: You couldn't walk far yesterday in downtown Cleveland without seeing someone wearing Lebron James' old number 23 Cavaliers jersey. Todd Miller's was a little wrinkled. He said he had long ago stashed it in his basment.
TODD MILLER: I kind of felt all along he would eventually come back, hence why I never burnt my jersey.
CASTELE: Many here fumed four years ago and felt humiliated when James dragged out his decision and then announced on ESPN that he'd leave the Cavaliers. Even Cav's owner Dan Gilbert called it a cowardly betrayal. Peter Pattakos, who runs the sports blog Cleveland Frowns, remembers just how ugly it was.
PETER PATTAKOS: You have these people that really just turned on him. I mean, the hatred, the venom, I mean, if you look back at Lebron's first trip back to Cleveland.
CASTELE: His former fans loudly booed him back then. James' departure was just another sports disappointments in a championship starved town. But now, vendors are selling T-shirts bearing the word forgiven. Pattakos says, he understands why.
PATTAKOS: He's from here. He's the biggest thing in town by far, you know, and I don't think he was that even in Miami.
CASTELE: James announced his return to Cleveland in a posting on the Sports Illustrated website. In it he doesn't apologize for leaving Lake Erie for the Florida Coast - but he says, he wants to raise his kids here. James grew up in nearby Akron and says, bringing a championship to his struggling hometown would mean far more than in Miami. Teresa Overton says, she understands why he left and though it hurt, she's ready to forgive.
TERESA OVERTON: His goal was to get a ring, and he had to go to Miami in order to get it.
CASTELE: Lebron James return is the second bit of good news this week swelling Cleveland's self-esteem. Last Tuesday, the GOP chose it to host its 2016 convention. Plain Dealer sportswriter Bill Livingston says, let's not celebrate James before he proves himself, though.
BILL LIVINGSTON: I am reluctant to apply noble values to people until they show that they're going to back it up. And I don't think either he or Dan Gilbert has shown that.
CASTELE: Downtown, Aaron Bishop and his friends are walking beneath a big new video screen flashing James' image and a welcome home message. Bishop likens the return to reconciling after a bitter breakup.
AARON BISHOP: Everything was a good relationship. We all broke up for minute now, y'all back together again. This is how it is. We just got a relationship with Bryant. I mean, he's like family to us.
CASTELE: Some call Clevelanders fair-weather fans for now embracing James after scorning him. But James says he does not hold a grudge. And if he brings home a championship, neither will the most skeptical fans. For NPR News, I'm Nick Castele in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.