LeBron James feels at home in Cleveland. That’s because he was born in Akron, Ohio—just 35 miles from where the Cavaliers play ball. And so it wasn’t a surprise when, last Thursday, the Miami Heat landed in the Quicken Loans Arena and LBJ scorched with plenty of heat his former team.
“It was impressive,” said Erik Spoelstra, the Fil-Am head coach of the Heat, of his team’s 118-90 win. “It takes a special player and a person to be able to respond to all of this scrutiny.”
Scrutiny? That’s a mellow term to use. How about saying LeBron was castigated, booed, jeered, condemned. Consider three placards held by Cavs fans that night. One said: “LBJ… LIAR BABY JERK.” Another, “YOU’RE ONLY A PRINCE IN WADE’S COUNTRY.” And finally, “11-8? LOOKS LIKE YOU LEFT YOUR TALENTS IN CLEVELAND.”
Yet, Mr. James rose above those protests. In the most-awaited game this NBA season, he played supreme; scoring 38 points, including a third quarter assault when he made 10 of 12 shots and 24 points. “It was seven great years here,” James said. “A lot of memories here.”
I’d say it was an “in-your-face, take that!” performance that reminded Cleveland—including owner Dan Gilbert and his former Cavs teammates—what they had lost. Ouch. As for Miami, one night doesn’t fix their woes but this game might be the spark they needed to fire the heat. They’ve now won three straight and stand at 12-8. Maybe Pat Riley won’t coach, after all.