December 02, 2010
Cleveland Cavalier fans came down hard and heavy with their boos as former Cavalier LeBron James(notes) played his first game in Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat, but that didn't dissuade James from going right to his pregame ritual of clapping a giant cloud of chalk dust in the air, right in the face of 20,000 rabid fans.
Still, as James' long-awaited return became a reality, this contentious initial back and forth turned into the most combative conflict of the night.
James not only spurned his former Cavalier team last summer as a free agent, but in doing so on live TV, he swiftly and tactlessly broke the hearts of thousands of Cavalier backers. And northern Ohio, rightfully, has been rather ticked off in the months since. But save for one profane chant just before the players were introduced Thursday night (a seven-letter expletive), things were somewhat civil.
The former Cavalier was introduced first amongst his new Heat teammates, and while the noise was deafening, it wasn't anything louder than, say, Latrell Sprewell's first game back in Golden State following his assault on then-Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo. Though the crowd stopped the booing long enough to cheer for longtime Cavalier center and current Heat starter Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes), the catcalls started up again once Dwyane Wade(notes) was introduced for Miami.
[Related: Fans relentless with boos for James]
As stated, LeBron did end up tossing his chalk up in the air, as has been his custom at every home or road game (though he tends to tone it down a bit on the road) throughout his career, he hugged Cavs center Anderson Varejao(notes), gave some dap to Cavs assistant coach Mike Malone (a LeBron-era holdover on new head coach Byron Scott's staff), and hit his first basket (a 17-foot jumper) just a minute into the contest.
The crowd continued to boo James every time he touched the ball. And toward the end of the first quarter Cavaliers fans actually began an "Akron hates you" chant, in reference to the city where James grew up. Making the spectacle all the more confusing was the fact that Chris Bosh(notes) was shooting free throws at the time for the Heat. Why does Akron hate Chris Bosh?
As for Cavalier-endorsed crowd activity? Well, it was limited to their annoying public address announcer asking fans to wave the white towels (huh?) they had draped over every seat in the house prior to Thursday night's game.
But after quite a bit of pregame fear regarding the potentially nasty things Cavaliers fans could do to James during the game, the odd nasty chant mixed in with a chorus of boos was a welcome relief. And despite all the hype, and all the obvious enmity, a basketball game resulted. How about that?
Re-introductions over, Cleveland can get back to doing what it loves best.