"I never thought it would happen ... ," law student Larry Boothe said. "I never thought it would be a reality."
The free agent's decision is the latest in a run of good news for the hard-working city of Cleveland, which is mired in a 50-year sports championship drought.
Earlier in the week, Republican officials announced they would be bringing their national convention and the hundreds of millions of dollars it will generate to Cleveland in 2016.
Also, the woeful Browns, the last Cleveland team to win a title in 1964, grabbed headlines when they drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel in May, a move that raised expectations for the team's return to its former glory.
And now James, a product of nearby Akron and St. Mary-St. Vincent High School, is returning home.
Jessica Spachner sat at an outdoor restaurant table in Cleveland's Warehouse District and smiled at the news of James' return. She said she and others can now forgive him for announcing on national television in 2010 that he was leaving the Cavaliers for Miami, where he helped the Heat win two championships in his four years there.
"People forgive pretty quickly," the 27-year-old Spachner said.
Boothe, 25, had just picked up a six-pack of beer and was headed back to the law office where he's working this summer to celebrate with his co-workers.
"The bosses said go for it," an elated Boothe said.
The phone number for the Cavaliers' ticket office boasted of James' return in a recorded message but noted that single-game tickets aren't yet available, and the extension for season ticket inquiries rang busy Friday afternoon.
Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.