No matter how many times Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James has gone back to play against his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, he can seemingly never truly expect what will be waiting for him at the Cavs’ Rocket Mortgage Arena.
“Yeah, a little bit,” LeBron James said when asked if a tribute video surprised him in a postgame press conference. “But it’s always love coming back here.
“Obviously, the memories I have here will never be forgotten, from the time I was drafted as an 18-year-old kid to the time I left. The reception I got from the fans here is mutual, that’s for sure.”
The Cavs made a tribute to LeBron James earlier this year when the then-31-win Lakers traveled down to Rocket Mortgage Arena for his last duel with his hometown team of the season. He received a standing ovation when he passed Karl Malone and placed second on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, continuing to receive tribute celebrations when he ended the night with 38 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
Since he was first selected out of St. Vincent–St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio with the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, James has seen every kind of reaction from the Cleveland crowd during every chapter of his basketball career. He received the same kind of roaring cheers as he did on Tuesday night when he threw up his first chalk toss upon his return to the Cavaliers in a 2014 game against the New York Knicks, a game spoiled by forward Carmelo Anthony’s 25 points in a 95-90 New York win.
“On the positive side, yeah,” LeBron James said. “I’ve been here on the negative side when the energy was crazy too.
“But on the positive side, it was great. That’s what Cleveland sports are all about. From the Guardians, to the Browns, to the Cavs, the fans will always support them and be loud. I wouldn’t expect anything less than that.”