LeBron James closed out a homecoming stretch that he kicked off with a stop in his old Miami stomping grounds over the weekend by returning to where it all started for a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, November 21. Needless to say, the native son responsible for bringing the city its only NBA Finals Championship was met with a hero’s welcome, ESPN reports.
Heading into the anticipated midweek match-up, there had been mixed expectations concerning how LeBron might be received given the jeers that awaited him when he came back to Quicken Loans Arena in a Heat uniform following his first split from the Cavs. In the days leading up to the contest, it even sounded as though No. 23 had prepared himself for the worst when in an exclusive with the Athletic, he was quoted as saying the fans’ reaction “doesn’t matter” because he is no longer on the team. However, to the surprise of skeptics and the delight of the 33-year-old basketball great, he’d run out on the floor to cheers from a crowd that remained on its feet through his introduction.
With a short yet emotional tribute that aired during the game’s first timeout, the organization even went so far as to honor the joy that LeBron’s legendary tenure in a Cavs uniform brought, and what his presence as a charitable force for the people meant to the city.
“I just felt different from the time we landed yesterday. From the time we landed yesterday, it just felt a different way,” LeBron would later say about the homecoming experience this time around.
LeBron made a statement in his return to The Land! pic.twitter.com/GKwiT7QJfm
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 22, 2018
“I appreciate these fans, just as much as they appreciate me,” Newsweek quotes LeBron as having gone on to tell reporters following the Lakers’ 109-105 victory. “Every single night we stepped on the floor, they always showed their appreciation to not only myself, but to my teammates over these 11 years – especially the last four years – those championship runs that we were making.”
LeBron would compliment the wishes of those who wanted to see him dazzle, while crushing the hopes of fans would have loved nothing more than to see him locked down, by putting up 32 points to go with 14 rebounds and seven assists. LeBron’s performance helped L.A. collect its eighth win in 10 games, and it put the team in position to continue elevating up the ranks of a Western Conference that is currently being headed by a 12-5 Memphis Grizzlies team.
For the LeBron-less Cavs, the outcome signified that the woes only continue, as they inversely collected their eighth loss in 10 games to remain the East’s last-place team with a 2-14 overall record.