On Friday, the announcement was made that NBA superstar LeBron James would return to Cleveland to rejoin the Cavaliers’ roster after a few years with the Miami Heat. It seemed to be the only news in the US sports world that day. Still, you may be wondering why I would mention that, here, on an auto racing website. Believe it or not, I have my reasion, with that reason being that it kind of loosely reminds me of the relationship between the late Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress Racing. The comparison may seem kind of odd to some, but just humor me and follow me on this one.
James may, perhaps be Ohio’s favorite son, or at least he has been at times. He’s an Akron native, and after his Ohio high school basketball career, he was drafted by the state’s NBA team — the Cleveland Cavaliers. After coming close to an NBA title in 2007, making it to finals only to lose to the San Antonio Spurs.
A few years later, in 2010, James packed his bags and left home for the “greener pastures” of Miami and the head. He won a couple of championships in Miami, in 2012 and 2013.
As of Friday, though, James is back home in Cleveland. Well, actually, according to reports, he’s in Brazil, taking in the World Cup festivities. But his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers was officially announced, so he’ll be back at his old stomping grounds before long.
Now, consider Earnhardt’s NASCAR Winston Cup Series career, specifically the early years. No, his career didn’t start at RCR. Instead, his first full-time gig came with Rod Osterlund in 1979. He was Cup Rookie of the Year that first season, and followed that up with a championship a year later.
His arrival at Richard Childress’ organization came during the 1981 season. After struggles, the young Earnhardt moved to Bud Moore’s race team for a few season and won some races. But he returned to RCR at the start of the 1984 season. The rest, as the say, is history.
I was young during the early stages of Earnhardt’s career. Heck, I was only five when he first joined Chlress and had just turned eight not long before his return to the organization, but I’m guessing there weren’t people in the streets, burning Earnhardt T-shirts upon the driver’s announced departure from RCR. And it’s my understanding that the departure actually came at the recommendation of Childress, so there are differences in these two situations.
But, long story short, after testing those “greener pastures,” Earnhardt came back. It was after said return to Earnhardt experienced the height of his career, I guess you could say. Six of his seven Winston Cups came with Childress after that return.
That’s something for basketball fans in Cleveland to consider. The Cavs couldn’t help James get an NBA title when he was there before, just like Earnhardt couldn’t get the job done in his first, short, stint at RCR. But when Earnhardt and Childress paired back up there was no stopping them. It’s something to think about.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images/ISC Archives
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