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MIAMI – LeBron James answered questions about his return to Miami, he answered questions about his emotions during Thursday evening, he answered questions about Dwyane Wade, he answered questions about his leg injury. Finally, LeBron James had a question of his own.
"The question I have, which is kind of bothering me sometimes, is when a player decides to decide his own fate, there is always questions about it?" James said. "And, 'Why did this guy do that, do that and do this?' When an organization decides to go elsewhere for a player, it's that they did what's best for the team. Let's figure that out some time."
James' words came unsolicited after he scored 30 points as the Cavaliers lost 101-91 to the Miami Heat on Christmas night. It was his first regular-season game playing against the Heat since he decided in free agency last summer to return to the Cavaliers and his home state. James led Miami to four NBA Finals appearances and two titles in his four years after departing from Cleveland in the summer of 2010.
When asked why he believes players are chastised and not owners, James said: "I don't know. I'm done."
James then departed quickly to the locker room, limping because of left knee and hamstring injuries. He was told during his getaway that Wade expressed something similar a day earlier. James just shook his head and kept walking.
"It's tough in this league," Wade said on Wednesday. "When a player makes a decision, and however you make it, there is always backlash. But when an organization makes it, it's the right thing for an organization to do. And it's fine. Josh Smith just got cut. It was the right thing for the Pistons to do.
"It's fine. LeBron James or players make decisions in free agency, then it becomes a different situation."
The timing of James' words was confusing based on all the love he received from the Heat and their fans on this night. The aftermath of James' decision to return to Cleveland was nothing like his decision to leave it.
"My first game when I went back home, my first home game, very difficult," James said.
Despite all the initial hatred he received from Cavs fans in 2010, James still decided to return to Cleveland.
"A lot of things that go on in life or in sports with people kind of holding grudges are because they're afraid to actually take a step forward," James said. "It's a fine line between pride and progress. And I'm on the progress side. I'm not on the pride side."
The Heat also have reason to be upset with James. He departed after going to the NBA Finals four years in a row and made his decision 11 days into free agency. Heat owner Micky Arison, however, did the opposite of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert by expressing appreciation for James after his departure.
The Heat and their fans also were classy on Christmas night, too. The crowd mostly cheered when James was announced first overall in the Cavaliers' starting lineup. The Heat played a video montage celebrating James during the first timeout of the game that fans responded to with cheers and a standing ovation.
The only time Heat fans booed was when James had the ball during the game, which makes sense because they wanted a victory. There were no signs degrading him, no chants.
"It is cool," James said of the video tribute. "A lot of emotions come back. I spent four years with those guys."
Nothing about this night spoke anything about James being chastised for his decision to return to Cleveland. In fact, his decision to return home was mostly greeted with enthusiasm and applause in and outside of Cleveland – and by the media.
"He made the right decision. He went home. You can't say nothing about that decision when someone decides to come home," Wade said.
James didn't expand on his comments after the game. But his Cavaliers teammate, James Jones, who followed him from Miami to Cleveland, tried to explain.
"It's not that he wasn't celebrated going back home," Jones told Yahoo Sports. "We just always know there was a divide, a faction that will say that's disloyal for you to leave a place where you were embraced to go back somewhere else. And so the place you're coming to is excited and the place you're leaving thinks you're being disloyal.
"So it's just that dynamics. You see it in sports in general because the fans are so close to the line to the player and not the organizations, that when you become attached to the players and the players go elsewhere, they view it as the player leaving the fans and not the organization. But when the organization shutters a player, it's seen as a business move."
Perhaps James is upset over the billboards in Cleveland – paid for by Miami media – that mockingly read "You're Welcome LeBron; Love, Miami," that displayed the two title rings he won with the Heat. The billboards were a tongue-in-cheek reference to James' return letter to Cleveland, which seemed to thank everybody except for Miami fans. James said he hasn't spoken to Heat president Pat Riley since making his decision to depart.
When asked by a Miami media member if he has given the proper thank you to Miami, James said, "I gave everything and more to this city when I was here. I never disrespected this city or the franchise or any of my teammates. [I did] everything as a professional and I gave it all. That's all I can do."
The Heat and their fans pretty much did all they could to appreciate James before and during the game. Pictures of James celebrating are still in the Heat locker room and throughout the arena. Many Heat fans also clapped minutes after the game ended as James and Wade talked and embraced before they left the floor.
"It was an incredible run, and none of us have forgotten his contributions," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We will look back on it, I will look back on it with an incredible pride and perspective knowing that I coached one of the all-time greats."