As soon as the video tribute ended, a easy sentiment crammed the large scoreboard. Towards a black backdrop, big white letters delivered the heartfelt message.
Wednesday’s recreation marked LeBron James’ first recreation in his outdated metropolis since transferring to the Los Angeles Lakers in the summertime. And Cleveland needed to say one thing.
“THANK YOU, LeBRON,” it mentioned.
Eight years after he was handled like a thug, James was welcomed again correctly.
Again on the court docket the place he carried out for 11 seasons, and underneath the title banner he helped increase, James rallied the Lakers to a 109-105 win over the Cavaliers, who performed their finest recreation of the season in opposition to their former teammate however could not cease him when it mattered most.
James completed with 32 factors, 14 rebounds and 7 assists. He additionally scored or assisted on 11 straight factors because the Lakers overcame a 99-91 deficit within the fourth quarter.
However basketball took a backseat to James’ homecoming, which was so completely different than his return in 2010, when betrayed Cleveland followers unleashed their fury on him.
There have been no profane chants this time. No derogatory indicators. No venom.
Solely love, and James felt it.
“From the time we landed yesterday, it simply felt a special method,” he mentioned. “I am a special particular person. We’re all completely different from eight years in the past, each good and unhealthy. However extra importantly, this expertise has been nice.
“So it is all about development and all of us have grown from that second eight years in the past. So I form of go away the previous previously and all the time give attention to the current and see what occurs sooner or later.”
The Cavs, who got here in a league-worst 2-13, gave James and the Lakers all they may deal with. And even after giving up an eight-point lead, that they had an opportunity to tie late, however Kyle Korver missed a wide-open 3-pointer with 17 seconds left and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made 4 free throws within the ultimate 15 to seal it for Los Angeles.
Jordan Clarkson had 20 factors and Tristan Thompson 14 and 15 rebounds for Cleveland.
From the second he stepped again onto Quicken Loans Area flooring, James was handled like a returning champion.
On the night time earlier than Thanksgiving, Cleveland mentioned due to the Northeast Ohio son, the one who ended town’s 52-year championship drought.
“A hero has come again,” Cavs coach Larry Drew mentioned earlier than tip-off.
James was the final Lakers participant launched earlier than the sport, offered with a line acquainted to all Cavs followers: “A 6-foot-Eight ahead from St. Vincent-St. Mary Excessive Faculty,” mentioned area announcer Sean Peebles. “Welcome house! LeBron James.”
The gang roared and stood as James walked out and huddled along with his new teammates, who will need to have questioned what was in retailer for them.
However in contrast to that ugly night time of Dec. 2, 2010, when James returned with the Miami Warmth and was subjected to a poisonous, charged environment of hatred in contrast to something seen earlier than or since, this was an evening for celebration — and perhaps extra closure.
James has moved on.
The Related Press contributed to this report