The Return of LeBron: Reaction

Brian Windhorst, ESPN: Before the game several Cavs, including former friend Mo Williams, shunned James as he tried to come over to the bench to greet them. During the first half, James wandered over to talk to the bench only to have several players completely ignore him. Others, including friend Daniel Gibson, treated it like it was 2009 as they chatted James up. By the third quarter, when James was on fire and the game was getting out of hand, the only reaction came from Anderson Varejao, who swiped James’ headband off his head and tossed it aside when James was brazen enough to again step over to his favorite spot. “I really didn’t see that,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said, perhaps trying to be pragmatic on a night when his team had many other problems to examine. It is hard to believe that Scott, a veteran of the Celtics-Lakers wars, could endorse such behavior.

Terry Pluto, Cavaliers fans certainly dealt with the return of LeBron James to Cleveland with far more class than the defending Most Valuable Player handled his move to Miami. That’s a credit to this these fans and this city. It’s probably a downer to some in the national media who arrived in town for Thursday night’s game much like that ghoulish segment of fans who attend auto races hoping for a major crash. After all, we are supposed to be the land of the Great Unwashed, where people still live in caves, killing dinosaurs for dinner and then eating them with our bare hands. Beer Night, Bottlegate and general ugliness is supposed to rule in this cultural wasteland.

Israel Gutierrez, The Miami Herald: Cleveland fans got their say, taking their first chance to personally tell LeBron how betrayed they felt. And, for a while, they actually were convinced the whole “One for All. All for One” team motto actually meant something, that this Cavaliers team can survive just fine with Joey Graham trying to replace LeBron in the lineup. It didn’t take long, though, for the fans to recognize what had gotten away, that no matter how much they hate their former King, it doesn’t compare to how much they miss him. By halftime, James wasn’t quietly going about his business. He was smiling for fans with cameras as his teammates warmed up. He danced in the area just in front of the Cavs bench. And once that second half began, he was just as much toying with his former team and showing off for his former fans as he was performing for the Heat. Of his season-best 38 points, 24 came in that third quarter, tying a Heat record for points in a quarter. And LeBron loved every second of it. James left Cleveland showing no loyalty. He came back showing no regrets. Why should he? Look what he left behind.

Mike Wallace, ESPN: James’ night was through after the third quarter, so the only suspense remaining was to see how much he would hear and see from fans from his seat on the bench as the final 12 minutes of the game played out. To James’ credit, he largely ignored the chaos that started when someone threw a battery from the stands that landed right in front of the Heat’s bench. That drew a warning from the public address announcer. The battery was thrown right around the time when a man apparently tried to rush the court from one of the tunnels leading to it but was picked off by a security officer, which led to a scuffle. As the Heat’s lead grew, so did the craziness in the stands. One fan wearing a Heat jersey was showered with cups of beer in the upper deck. He didn’t duck. Instead, he basked in the beer until he was escorted out. Then came towel man. Maverick Carter, James’ business manager, left his courtside seat moments later and had to be escorted through the crowd by three bodyguards. James, meanwhile, was oblivious to his surroundings. Or at least he did a remarkable acting job. The “Delonte West” chants didn’t affect him. The “Akron Hates You” barbs didn’t make him crack. He simply sat, pointed a few times at familiar faces in the crowd and shared some inside jokes with Wade on the bench.

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