Coming off his first game this season against the Miami Heat, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers wrapped up their road trip with a matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers at a Quicken Loans Arena that had more buzz than what’s been seen over the past month.
While the Lakers playing in South Beach marked a return for James, it was Wednesday’s game that many pointed to when the NBA released the schedule for the 2018-19 NBA season. Unlike his last time leaving the franchise in free agency, Cavs fans showered James with adulation.
He was cheered upon taking the court for pregame warmups and also during pregame introductions. James later was the subject of a tribute video that played during a timeout in the first quarter.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) November 22, 2018
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 22, 2018
The treatment James received was a far cry from his return to Cleveland during a first season with the Heat. That visit saw him showered with boos and plenty of vitriol filled the arena. The response grew more tepid in James’ later visits while a member of the Heat.
Now having delivered a championship, it essentially made leaving the Cavaliers a second time all the more palpable. Furthermore, there was a widely held expectation that James was unlikely to re-sign with the team.
That may also have influenced Cavs owner Dan Gilbert into penning a heartfelt thank you after James signed with the Lakers, rather than the critical message he had in 2010.