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LeBron James returned to Cleveland Wednesday for the first time since leaving the Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers.
His reception was vastly different from when he visited in a Miami Heat uniform.
James a villain no more
A villain upon his first departure, James rewrote his script with his return to Cleveland and 2016 championship with the Cavaliers, leading to a warm welcome from the the fans of his former team before the Lakers pulled off a 109-105 victory.
The Cavaliers presented a video tribute to James during the game’s first timeout, thanking him for the championship he brought the city and the work he did in the community through programs like the LeBron James Family Foundation and his I Promise school.
Cavs thank James for on- and off-court contributions
“Thank you for what you did on the court,” text from the tribute read. “But we all know it’s bigger than basketball.”
James acknowledged the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation after the tribute.
Many in the stands had signs thanking James, a far cry from seeing his jersey burned during the 2010 offseason.
James also received a warm welcome during warmups when he took the court for the first time as a Laker.
“I appreciate these fans as much as they appreciate me,” James said after the game. “Every single night we stepped out on the floor, they always showed their appreciation to myself and my teammates for those 11 years, especially those last four years, those championship runs that we were making.”
James leads Lakers to comeback win
The Lakers rallied from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit against the 2-14 Cavs powered by James’ 32-point, 14-rebound, seven-assist effort. He scored nine of the team’s final 14 points after the Lakers had surrendered a 96-87 lead about halfway through the final stanza.
James’ legacy has gone from hero to villain back to hero in Cleveland. Nothing he does in Los Angeles is likely to erase the goodwill he built spending 11 seasons with the Cavaliers.
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