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Ohio's Prodigal Sons: Comparing The Returns Of LeBron James And Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer grew up in Ohio, in the small town of Ashtabula, a province in the northeast corner of the state.

The football coach’s career began at Ohio State, where he was a graduate assistant for two years under head coach Earl Bruce. He helped with the defensive backs.

Meyer is now the head coach of the Buckeyes, returning in November 2011 to the place where it all started. There were plenty of stops on the 50-year-old’s journey from graduate assistant to headman, but most notably, a six-year stint at Florida. Meyer won two titles with the Gators, in 2006 and 2008.

He is no longer Ohio’s favorite prodigal son, though.

That man? LeBron James, who announced he is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers following four years with the Miami Heat in an article with SI.com.

James grew up in Ohio, in Akron, a city in the northeast corner of the state.

The basketball player’s career began in Cleveland with the Cavaliers, a franchise that made him the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft. He left in 2010 after seven seasons, joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. They won two championships in four years.

Now, James is attempting to win it all with his first team, in his home state.

“What’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio,” the NBA star said in his SI.com essay.

For both Meyer and James, it would have been easy to stay in the Sunshine State. Meyer had health problems and took the 2011 season off. He could have retired for good, continuing to live in Florida, a state his wife and children love. 

James won two NBA titles with Miami; sticking with Pat Riley, Bosh, and Wade was assumed by many to be the smart move.

Both opted to come back to Ohio, though.

Why?

For Meyer, the decision was likely easier. Ohio State, unlike the Cavaliers, is a premier program, a football factory that will contend for championships regardless of who is coaching.

For James, it had to be tougher. The Cavaliers have never won a championship; Ohio hasn't won a professional sports' title in half a century. The Cavs are a young team, too; their premier player, aside from James, is 22-year-old point guard Kyrie Irving

Both men will say it was about one thing, though: Ohio is home.

Meyer, in his introductory press conference in 2011:

“It's a great opportunity to come back to my home state where I was born and where I grew up, where I went to school and met my wife, who was the Miss Junior Ross County Fair Queen, something like that, 19 ‑‑ what was it, Gene says 1983. That's exactly right. I began my college coaching career at Ohio State in 1987, working for Hall of Fame Coach Earle Bruce,” Meyer said.

James, in his SI.com essay published today:

“Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son,” James said.

*****

Meyer and James share a personal relationship, too. Last fall, James stood on the sideline during Ohio State’s game against Wisconsin. He wore scarlet and gray, cheering on his home state’s flagship school.

James even has a locker inside Ohio State’s men’s basketball locker room.

">September 3, 2013

Meyer has long been an admirer of the NBA’s best player. James has spoken to the Ohio State football program on multiple occasions."He's one of the most driven human beings I've ever seen,"Meyer said a year ago. "Give me all kinds of LeBrons. Do you see the way he articulates, the way he treats people, the way he focuses?

">@NFLonFOX: Urban Meyer, as Notre Dame assistant, offered scholarship to all-state soph WR LeBron James pic.twitter.com/S1D3ZxlxNq

— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 11, 2014

James and Meyer’s relationship will now probably improve. Cleveland is only a two-hour drive up I-71 N from Columbus.

*****

Which prodigal son will win a championship with their home team first?

Ohio State’s 2014 team will likely start the season ranked in the top 10, and with Braxton Miller leading the Buckeyes, they’re a legitimate title contender.

The 2014 Cavaliers, according to multiple Las Vegas betting brokers, have 3:1 odds to win the NBA Finals next June.

Ohio is in a state of euphoria today, as it was in 2011 when Meyer announced he was coming back.

Just imagine what it'll be like if either is able to win a championship.