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Russo Bros Wanted to Shoot 'Infinity War' in Cleveland

Let’s cast the LeBron James ‘Coming Home’ movie!

LeBron James returns home to the Cleveland Cavaliers
When LeBron James ended weeks of speculation by announcing his decision to leave Miami and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, what he really did was cap the kind of sports story that is quickly optioned by a major motion picture studio and transformed into a summer blockbuster - maybe even an Oscar contender.

It’s the kind of story that deserves the feel good treatment. Young gun breaks the heart of his Midwest city - fans, friends and family, learns that there's more to life than just the "one thing," and redeems himself by Coming Home (assuredly the title).

Here’s how I imagine Coming Home

Movie opens in a small gym. We see James in the distance in a contemplative moment, alone, shooting hoops. He says nothing - in fact, he has very few lines in the entire film. Over this quiet moment, we slowly hear the rising sounds of sports radio - Baskin and Phelps, maybe. It is June 25, the day James announces he’s opting out of his Miami Heat contract, and the sportscasters are debating what this move could possibly mean. Is there any way on God’s green Earth James could return to Cleveland?

Every pivotal moment -  his Cleveland-based agent, Rich Paul, working the phones and pressing palms, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and former Cavs and Heat player Zydrunas Ilgauskas allegedly board a plane to meet with James in Florida, excited fans gather outside his Bath, Ohio, home, not sure what to expect yet, worried that they'll be let down once more - is presented this way. 

James is always alone - meditative, distanced from the main stage, focused on the play unfurling in his own mind - while a whirlwind of speculation swirls around him. 

He is the Zen master while the world around him falls into chaos.

Okay, we all agree that’s the only way to make this movie (humor me here, folks). So who do we cast? No problem. Here you go:

Rich Paul, played by Sean 'P Diddy' Combs
Rich Paul, played by Sean “P Diddy” Combs
Paul is James’ agent - his third - who most consider the mastermind behind James’ return to Cleveland. While LeBron surely made up his own mind, Paul is the one who paved the way. Combs not only resembles Paul, but displays the kind of swagger and sharp business sense as the young agent.

Dan Gilbert, played by Kevin Pollak
Dan Gilbert, played by Kevin Pollak
If you’ve met Gilbert, you know he has a sense of humor similar to Pollak’s. Or at least a sense of humor that’s out there just a little bit (check out any stories about the Cleveland Cavaliers and the draft lottery). Pollak looks a bit like Gilbert and can carry the same tired - by confident - Midwestern cadence Gilbert does. Plus, with Gilbert and Pollak, you’re never sure whether to love him or hate him. Maybe the answer is a little of both.

Pat Riley, played by James Cromwell
Pat Riley, played by James Cromwell
For Riley, you need a strong character actor with powerful screen presence. Cromwell fits the bill. He can be imposing and disarming at the same time. You trust him - and you wouldn’t say no to him - adding great tension to James' and Riley's Vegas meeting.

Savannah Brinson, played by Jennifer Hudson
Savannah Brinson, played by Jennifer Hudson
There’s little doubt Brinson, James’ wife, had some influence over the decision to move back to Akron. After all, it's her home as well. It’s likely Brinson is the biggest voice in James’ inner circle - what partner isn't? It was James’ decision, but Brinson hopes and dreams surely played a role. Hudson’s inner strength and quiet beauty would portray that well.

Cleveland fans, embodied by Mike Polk
Cleveland Fans, embodied by Mike Polk Jr.
Clevelanders know and love Mike Polk. He is our every sports fan. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of Polk. He embodies the love/hate relationship Cleveland has with its sports teams (“I love them and I hate myself for it”). I mean, have you seen his Factory of Sadness video?

Miami fans, embodied by Nasim Pedrad adn Jay Pharoah as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West
Miami Fans, embodied by Nasim Pedrad and Jay Pharoah
As long as the Saturday Night Live actors portray their version of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. After all, this is a story where the underdog city wins. So we must have some kind of comic relief - some kind of bad guy - and the bandwagon-celebrity-could-care-less Miami Heat fan - whether true or not - is the perfect rube.

Jenny Gotschall, portrayed by Meghan Aruffo
Jonathan and Jenny Gotschall, played by Zach Braff and Meghan Aruffo
Those that followed the story closely remember all the rumors that surely confirmed LeBron’s return - the kids back in Bath schools, the renovations at his Bath home - the list goes on. The most reported rumor was the Facebook post from Caroline’s Cupcake owners Jonathan and Jenny Gotschall. They knew someone who knew someone who said LeBron’s return was a done deal. The post made national news. A little literary license would allow you to expand these two characters and show how excited Cleveland fans were during those wild two weeks. Braff and Aruffo are the perfect couple to play the cupcake couple.

Lebron James, played by LeBron James
LeBron James, played by LeBron James
I mean, who else can you cast but the man himself?

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