You know how you see former President Jimmy Carter, at age 92, under a hardhat wielding a hammer to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity?
Evidently it is time now to similarly picture LeBron James, perhaps with goggles and an acetylene torch, working to rebuild the bridges he burned on the way out of Miami -- the ones that would lead back to the Heat.
So goes the speculation in the wake of LeBron posting a couple of (apparent) olive branches on his Instagram account over the weekend. He's spending part of his summer vacationing back down here in the 3-0-5 and might just have been in a bit of a nostalgic mood, but of course tea-leave-reading fans and media have chosen to see this is as Mr. James making nice with the team and fans he jilted and in doing so paving a return to the Heat after one more season in Cleveland.
This is the way it goes in the social media age. It's a giant game of Clue. Anything an athlete might say may be interpreted as a hint or veiled message -- magnified when the athlete is LeBron and he has 31.7 million Instagram followers, most of whom believe he'll ditch the Cavaliers after one more season.
"For all those that had anything to do with me being where I am today I jus wanna say THANK YOU!," LeBron wrote (verbatim) on Instagram, followed by the hashtag #Blessed and a prayer-hands icon.
The accompanying photo, posted Saturday, showed him looking all contemplative – or wistful, if you prefer – on a boat on Biscayne Bay, the city of Miami skyline the backdrop.
Right before that, LeBron had posted from the boat another photo, of the Heat arena where he played four seasons, and wrote, "A ton of great memories riding past her today!!" with the hashtag #AAA.
More than 1.5 million people have "liked" those two posts, including, in both cases, a follower named Dwyane Wade.
Another clue! Hmm, Wade likes that James is getting all sentimental for his time here. Which of course can only mean one thing:
LeBron and D-Wade are both headed back to Miami!!!!! (String of hearts and clapping-hands icons) Followed by the hashtag #OrNotButMaybeBecauseYouNeverKnow.
Yeah, Wade obviously is headed back to the Heat, too, after one more season in Chicago, and our source there is that the Heat's Dion Waiters is acting like he's trying to make it happen on Twitter (even though Wade's return would cut directly into Waiters' minutes).
Somebody photoshopped a picture of Wade and Waiters together in Heat uniforms, and Dion re-Tweeted it with the words, "Yeah we gotta make this happen."
OK, so there you have it!
Instagram hints and re-Tweets pass for news in 2017. Hell, why not just go all the way and make it a Big 3 reunion!? Somebody please post a YouTube video on Facebook claiming a miracle cure has erased Chris Bosh's blood clots and he plans to re-sign with the Heat.
(Also, I think somebody just said on Reddit that he thought he may have overheard Alonzo Mourning might be plotting a Heat comeback at 47...)
A dose of reality here, if I may.
It ain't happening, folks! I sure like the odds against it, anyway.
I believe LeBron looks back with genuine fondness to his Miami days and why not? Four NBA Finals and two championships in four years is a pretty fair definition of “good old days.” But I do not believe there were ulterior motives in his Instagram reminiscing.
LeBron will be almost 34 the season after next when he'd be able to court Miami or vice versa, surely past-prime but still impactful enough that I think Pat Riley would swallow pride and take him back. James will still be ring-chasing and legancy-feathering, though. Would Heat The Sequel really be his best landing spot? Better than Los Angeles, the hub of the TV/movie empire he envisions?
And Wade? He's coming off career-worst 43.4 percent shooting last season and will be almost 37 the season after next. Miami might still take him back, but it would have to be at just the right price in just the right role. Wade would have to be ready to set all ego aside and return as an elder statesman coming off the bench for what amounts to a career curtain call in the city he should never have left. I would sooner see him ending his career elsewhere, then signing a ceremonial 1-day contract to officially retire as a member of the Heat.
The past is usually better left where it is, as a memory, not something to be exhumed. Rare is the movie sequel that can equal the original.
Dwyane Wade gave Miami an epic epoch that made him beloved and the greatest player in franchise history. LeBron James gave us the greatest four-year run South Florida has seen and felt in any sport.
We should be more than OK with the sweet memory of it – that it really happened, once – and hope the Heat is obsessed with its next glory days, not with the rear-view mirror.