LeBron James’ Return: A Win for Cleveland’s Housing Market?

NBA star LeBron James announced last Friday that he is heading home to Cleveland to rejoin the Cavaliers next year, after playing for the Miami Heat for the past four years. But he says his return to his hometown is about much more than just basketball.

James, a native to Akron, Ohio, says he cares deeply about the area and wrote in Sports Illustrated that “my relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”

James says he wants to promote the area through his charitable works.

“I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up,” James wrote in Sports Illustrated. “Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.”

But could James’ return really boost Cleveland’s economy or housing market? Cleveland and Akron are among the 10 lowest metro areas for home price growth. Akron recently ranked the lowest, with prices dropping by 0.2 percent, according to a housing report from Black Knight Financial Services. Cleveland and Akron also are fourth and fifth on the list for metro areas with the highest percentage of homes underwater (in Cleveland, 35 percent of homes are underwater; Akron is at 34 percent).

While property values are unlikely to rise just because James is returning to Cleveland, an article in HousingWire notes “the good vibes may just spur growth in an area that sorely needs it.”

“I feel my calling here goes above basketball,” James writes. “I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from.”


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