For the second time in his career, LeBron James must return to Cleveland after deciding to leave the Cavaliers in free agency. However, this time around will hopefully be a lot more pleasant than the first time. For those that don’t remember, when James decided to leave Cleveland the first time it resulted in one of the most brutal reactions in recent NBA history.
Within minutes of James’ decision, images of his jersey being burned in the street were being shown on TV. When James did return in an opposing uniform it was followed by an atmosphere that many have described as scary. Via USA Today.
“During the intros, it was (as) vile as anything I’d ever seen,” former Cavs general manager David Griffin said.
“The night before, there was a rally downtown, and it was so full of hate. I was one of the hosts. We tore his jersey apart on stage. All the urinals in the bar had LeBron’s face on it. I just remember feeling dirty about it. Yes, we didn’t like LeBron. But then, I was getting scared about what the environment at the game was going to be like. Is someone going to run on the court and take a swing at him? Is someone going to throw something and injure the guy? I remember doing a couple of interviews and saying, ‘I’m going to boo, but I’m going to do it respectfully. I’m not going to cross the line.’ ”
Nothing ever got physical that night, but the atmosphere itself was something that many people don’t look back on fondly. The second return, however, is expected to go much better. Since that infamous night, James has won multiple titles and even brought one to Cleveland in a shocking return. He gave the city its ring. He did what he wanted and then he went out west to Los Angles to pursue other passions. As a result, James ets to do what he wants now with very little criticism.
Of course, there will still be those that dislike James for deciding he must leave again. They might even go to the game and boo him. Current Cavs guard George Hill, is hopeful that doesn’t happen. He told Jason Lloyd of The Athletic that if James gets booed in his second return then that person is a not so nice word.
“If you boo him, you’re an a**hole,” Hill said. “He just means too much to this city, to this organization.”
This time around it should go a lot better for James now that he’s won the title. Also, time heals wounds. Fans no longer feel bitter about a decision James made years ago that in reality was his decision to make. Nobody can tell him what he can and can’t do. So Hill is right. Anybody that boos him for leaving a second time is an a**hole. James is allowed to live where he wants to live and play for who he wants to play for. He never had to come back, but he decided to so he could bring Cleveland a ring. After the way he was treated the first time? Nobody would have blamed him if he never came back.
Herron: “He fulfilled his promise, brought us a championship and all is forgiven. There’ll be very few boos, and zero from me.”
Nichols: Winning a title and fulfilling that promise has made a huge difference. The work he’s done in the community and with the school in Akron make a huge difference. The climate of the country and the climate of the city are different. The Cleveland Indians are better. The Browns have some hope in Baker Mayfield. Not everything is on him. Also, he did come back.”
Windhorst: “I’m expecting a standing ovation. I’m expecting a wonderful tribute video where the culmination is him making the blocked shot on Andre Iguodala. It’s complicated to honor him while he’s still in the league. … With every day that passes, the 2016 championship becomes more impressive as we see how great the Warriors are and we see how difficult it was to keep the Cavs together. It is worth something more than your run-of-the-mill title.”
It will be fun to see the city of Cleveland get a chance to celebrate James and everything he’s done for that franchise and community in a much more positive manner this time around.