• AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File
  • LeBron did just like T.S. Eliot said he would.

Old fans LeBron James had lost years ago and new fans he’d never had in the first place have all been roped in by his astonishing decision to go home. Robert Frost said that home is “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” T.S. Eliot said we’re all explorers, but “the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” These poets tell us James acted on one of the most fundamental impulses of human nature—to circle back.

Because LeBron James chose it, I suspect home has just become a destination of choice among athletes welcome anywhere. Perhaps Illinois and DePaul will now find that when they appeal to Chicago’s high school all-Americans to stay home, more of those athletes will actually decide to. Or perhaps only old warriors at what could come to be called the LeBron point of their careers (when further glory pursued strictly for its own sake seems gluttonous) will choose home.

There will be awkward moments when they do. For example, Dwyane Wade is clearly not the player he was four years ago. If Wade, a free agent, had announced last week, “I’m from Chicago and I want to come home,” a very carefully calibrated expression of delight would have been required of the Bulls.

(Here, from elitedaily.com, is a look at the NBA if everybody went home.)

Athletes aren’t the only ones who take their talents to greener pastures who might be affected by James’s example. One of the reasons Chicago remains a great city is the number of movers and shakers it attracts from lesser parts like Cleveland. How will these itinerants respond to James’s announcement, fashioned by Sports Illustrated into the open letter, “I’m Coming Home.”

Said James, “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. 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.”

And yet the fine impulse to go home can lead to enormous trouble. When it involves wanting a homeland to go home to, and a home that’s just as you remember it, or a home exactly as storybooks say it used to be in its heyday centuries ago, it can lead to some of the most wrenching and intractable trouble in the world.

But I’m kvetching. “I’m coming home” is a proclamation so simple and resonant that if it’s echoed and mimicked for years to come, it deserves to be. And Sports Illustrated, to the degree it cooked up this publishing coup with James, deserves all the praise in the world.

America, unlock your front doors to your prodigals.