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Retrospect: Some others who returned to their first team

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TSN.ca Staff
7/13/2014 9:58:14 AM
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LeBron James has made his decision and it's the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There wouldn't have been a lot of sentimental value or intrigue if James decided to stay in South Beach as Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade would have likely joined him (again), making the Heat the favourites (again) to dominate the NBA's Eastern Conference.

Rejoining the Cavaliers, on the other hand, not only sees James back in his first NBA colours, but allows for a rarity in sports - a star athlete returning to his first team in the prime of his career.

James spent the first seven years of his career with the Cavs, appearing in the post-season five times and making the Finals in 2007. He also won back-to-back MVP awards in 2009 and 2010.

And now he's even better.

With LeBron's return to Cleveland, he brings hope and excitement to a deflated sports city that once loved him before they despised him.

That's a lot of power to have.

But how about other stars who've returned to the place where it all started - and how did it fare for them?

Over the last 30 years, there have certainly been some notable examples.

In basketball, Canada's own Steve Nash played two relatively quiet seasons with the Phoenix Suns after the club drafted him 15th overall in 1996. Nash would then go on to make a name for himself with the Dallas Mavericks from 1998 to 2004. He made his return to Phoenix as a 30-year-old and would go on to lead one of the most exciting, high tempo teams in NBA history. Nash then won the Most Valuable Player award in 2005 and 2006.

Another point guard, Jason Kidd, started his career in Dallas before spending time with the Suns and Nets, leading the latter to the NBA Finals. Kidd found himself back in Big D in 2008 and just three seasons later, helped the Mavericks defeat the LeBron-led Heat for their first championship in franchise history.

At the other end of the spectrum, Allen Iverson played a decade with the Philadelphia 76ers before being traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2006. Iverson returned to the City of Brotherly Love in 2009, playing only 25 games for a bad 76ers team. He was understandably a shadow of his former self, but the fans loved the short reunion even though it didn't bring any success.

Major League Baseball has a few success stories.

Base-stealing magician Rickey Henderson played the first six years of his career with the Oakland Athletics - a flashy speed demon who could also hit for average. After joining the New York Yankees for four seasons, Henderson was traded back to Oakland in 1989. He helped lead the A's to their first World Series championship since 1974, hitting over .400 in the playoffs with 11 stolen bases.

Andy Pettitte was a key part of the New York Yankees' dynasty in the 1990s, winning four championships over his first eight years in pinstripes. He joined the Houston Astros for three seasons from 2004 to 2006 and returned to the Big Apple in 2007. A 37-year-old was an integral part of the Yankees' pitching staff during their championship season in 2009, winning two games in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies - including the clincher on three days rest.

In hockey, Trevor Linden got his start with the Vancouver Canucks from 1988 to 1998. He quickly became known as a gritty leader on and off the ice - who could also put up his share of goals. Linden was traded to the New York Islanders in 1998 and after a string of seasons on Long Island, in Montreal and with Washington, the Medicine Hat native returned to Vancouver and stayed there for the rest of his career. He is considered as one of the most beloved players in Canucks' history.

On the pitch, Ian Rush is known as one of the greatest footballers in Liverpool's history. He spent seven years with the club from 1980 to 1987 - recording a total of 139 goals. He would go on to play one season with Juventus before returning to Anfield for eight more productive years. He remains the all-time leading goal scorer in club history with 346.

It's not common for star athletes to make their return to their original team. And most of the time, the players' best years are behind them and it becomes more of a happy reunion for the fans rather than a shot for glory.

King James is in the prime of his career and could go down as the greatest basketball player in history. Heading to Cleveland is a risk, there's no doubt about that. But, winning there could certainly be more rewarding than winning anywhere else.

Cleveland is now in the centre of the basketball universe. It's time to sit back and see how the next chapter of NBA history unfolds.

LeBron James - Cavaliers (Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)
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