The Return of LeBron

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) walks up court with teammates guard Eddie House (55) and forward Chris Bosch after a time out in the second half of the opening night game against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on October 26, 2010.  UPI/Matthew Healey Photo via Newscom

LeBron James and the Miami Heat visit Cleveland tonight (8 PM ET on TNT). Here’s a sampling of how the media is handling his return.

Pat McManamon, FanHouse: James himself could take one step to not inflaming an emotional crowd: He could bypass his usual chalk toss before the game. Shaquille O’Neal quipped that the Celtics were betting James would not do it, and James’ teammate Dwyane Wade said he would. Wisdom might dictate he take a pass, this time… James can come out a winner if he plays well and Miami wins. If the Heat dominate, they could even silence the crowd. A little. The Cavs could come out winners if they win the game. They’re supposed to lose, but if they give their city and fans an emotional victory it would be briefly uplifting to a beleaguered area. The one entity that can lose the most, though, would be the city of Cleveland. And that would happen if a fan goes past the boundaries that are established and embarrasses the city. Cleveland’s weather was gray and cold Wednesday, about the same as its economic mood. Embarrassment on national TV Thursday night would hurt more, and it only takes one person. Cleveland has a choice how it wants to handle the situation. Its fans have the choice how they want to be remembered. Expressing emotion is one thing, exacting revenge foolishly would only mean the fans are putting themselves beneath the level James took with his “decision.” And they drag a city down with them.

Joe Posnanski, I guess this is the part that surprises me: The Miami Heat are boring. I didn’t expect that. When LeBron announced that he would join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, I did not know exactly what to expect, but I expected something electrifying. Maybe the Heat would be great, a new kind of superpower, designed by three players who decided it might be kinda fun to get together and change the world. Maybe the Heat would spectacularly crash into themselves like a black hole of egos. Maybe the Heat would come together to give us a kind of basketball we only see in the rarest of moments, like when Michael Jordan’s Bulls were at their height or when the various Dream Teams played at their most inspired. The possibilities seemed endless. And, I don’t know, for me, the possibilities no longer seem endless. The Heat play boring basketball. They win games in a boring fashion and lose them in boring ways. They have no inside presence. They do not move the ball around well. They generally beat bad teams. They generally lose to good ones. They play pretty well at home. They play pretty lousy on the road. They may yet come together, but I don’t think it’s inevitable, and I don’t think it’s even likely. James and Wade are great players, two of the five best in the world, and the expectation is that they would make magic together. But it turns out that they are the same kind of player, and when they are on the floor together, the result is less magic and more like a dance-off.

Andrew Sharp, SB Nation: What LeBron did this year, though… All of this has actually happened. No embellishment necessary. His blatant disappearing act against the Celtics in this year’s playoffs. Then the press conference after that game, where he blamed himself—not for playing poorly, but for playing so well in other games that he’d “spoiled” us and created unrealistic expectations among fans and media. A few weeks later, there was the media tour during the NBA Finals, when, while Kobe Bryant chased his fifth ring, LeBron met with Larry King. And of course, the free agency whirlwind and his ESPN special, which speaks for itself by now. Although as ridiculous as that spectacle seemed, everyone always forgets about the welcome party/rock concert/victory parade they held in Miami a few days afterward. Later in July, we got the outstanding LeBron-in-Vegas story from ESPN. Until, an hour after it was posted, the 2,000-word glance into his world mysteriously disappeared. As the season approached, we finally heard LeBron play the race card. Around the same time, we found out ESPN would create its own bureau dedicated to covering his new team. When he shared some of the racist messages he receives on Twitter, his attempt to play the victim came off ambiguous at best, and attention-starved at worst. Now, the Heat have stumbled to a 11-8 start before his triumphant return to Cleveland, just to ensure everyone finally understands exactly how ridiculous this charade has been all along.

Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: Cleveland, and northern Ohio, were wronged. And LeBron James was wrong. In every regard save for wanting to play with more talented teammates. But that’s where it has to end, fans. You were wronged, no doubt about it, but it’s not time to sink to James’ level, and be wrong. Cavalier fans have the goodwill of a nation on its side, but that will only sustain with good intentions. The second that any fan turns Thursday night’s basketball game into anything more than a basketball game, that goodwill disappears, for good reason, forever. Sure, we’ll know why someone did whatever they did, but that doesn’t mean it’s to be tolerated or explained away. No matter how pathetic, narcissistic, clueless, and uncaring the heel in question is. No amount of booing will make the hurt and frustration go away for these fans, but then again no amount of anything will make that hurt and frustration go away. Get in three quick pops while Jamario Moon(notes) holds James’ hands behind his back, chuck a quarter at him after holding it over a lit lighter, or come up with the nastiest “TNT” acronym you can on a poster board. It won’t make it any better.

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