They booed profusely at Quicken Loans Arena.
“I mean, he wasn’t on our team anymore; he was on the opposing team! We had to go out there and get it but, you could feel the energy in the air. Every time LeBron got the basketball you heard what the fans were doing. That was CRAA-ZY! Playing the game you could hear it, but you didn’t really tune into it because you were trying to do your job at the same time. But when you go back and watch the game man, and hear that stuff…that had to hurt and that had to hurt a lot to come back home and to get treated like that man. But I’m sure that he probably understood how they feel. He probably already knew that the kind of welcome (if that’s what you want to call it) that he was going to get , so he had to come out and do his job and we had to do our job. It was weird to just see him in the Miami Heat uniform. But I’m sure he’s glad that’s over, everybody’s happy; they love him now, so everybody’s in a good place right now.”
During the game,fans called him Scottie Pippen and booed him all night. James and the Heat got the 118-90 win over the Cavs.
Worth noting: LBJ made 15 of 25 field goals and handed out 8 assists in three quarters with no turnovers.
What led to this?
Fast forward to six months before that game, LeBron James uttered 14 dreaded words that broke the hearts of fans in Cleveland: “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, James, an Akron, Ohio eventually returned to the Cavs in 2014 and led the Cavs to a championship in 2016 alongside Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, JR Smith and head coach Ty Lue.
But when James left Cleveland the first time it was a dark period. “It was like one long funeral bro,” former Cleveland Cavaliers forward, Jamario Moon told me
“It was like just everything – I’m serious bruh, it was like the air just got sucked out of everybody like, ‘Man, I can’t believe this.’ But I think the fans…they were hurt. Like they were – like, LeBron was married to them and he cheated on them or something.”
Prior to the Cavs winning a championship in 2016, the city of Cleveland had not won a championship in major professional sports since the Cleveland Browns won an NFL Championship in 1964.
James was the city’s hope. Those hopes vanished when James bolted for Miami and formed a super team with fellow 2003 draftees, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Led by Head Coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat made four NBA Finals appearances—winning two NBA Finals.
Cavaliers team owner, Dan Gilbert, vented his own frustration writing a scathing letter where he scolded James by calling him a “Self-proclaimed King.” He even compared James to Benedict Arnold and assured Cavalier fans that Cleveland would win a championship before James would. A group of former fans even burned James’ jersey in effigy after his announcement.
“I mean, you saw the pictures…they were burning stuff, it was bad,” recounted Jamario Moon.
“You know, everybody was hurt! I was hurt, but not to the point that I don’t like LeBron no more. I’m gonna throw all his shoes away [laughs] I wasn’t hurt to the point that I was going to do something crazy like that but I was like, ‘Dang. I felt like we were so close. We just needed to add a couple more…a piece and a half maybe, and we could’ve gotten over the hump.’ But when I go back and think about it you know, a lot of people were like, “LeBron never really left outside of Akron and that surrounding area…” so, he used the time that he went to Miami for like, college years. Like, he went off to college and got away and doing his thing, and now he comes back home. So basically, he went to college and got his degree, came home and won a championship for Cleveland. That’s how I looked at it after the fact. But everybody was kind of hurt, but I wasn’t going to not be his friend or hate him, or nothing like that man. Because at the end of the day, it’s a game. It’s a game and it’s a BUSINESS. So you know obviously he made the best business decision for him and his family, and I’m sure a lot of people would do the same thing if somebody says you can go wherever and you got a better situation for you and your family; of course you’re going to go to the best situation for you and your family. So, he went off to the Army, came back and everybody from Cleveland was standing right there with open arms hugging…he came and got the job done. That’s what I think. But I’m happy that he came back to Cleveland and won a championship. Because I know that had to take a whole lot of pressure off of his – it was probably like – you know when you have bad gas one time and you just got to…it’s all in my back and when you just finally let all of that go, you’re like, ‘Aww man. What a relief!’ I know that’s how LeBron had to feel . That’s why he was crying as soon as the buzzer went off when they won that championship.”
Moon believes James winning that ring for Cleveland was eveything for Northeast Ohio. “Man, I’m so happy that man came back and got that championship for them fans,” he tells Scoop B Radio.
“Because those fans in Cleveland were loyal boy. When LeBron left, I think we lost like 26 straight or something. We had a long losing streak and when LeBron came back and flipped the switch and got them on the winning side, I know they had to be like, ‘Yes! Thank you!’ but those fans were there the whole time. All the stuff that we were going through when LeBron was gone man, all the losing those fans were coming in there rooting us on because they understood what happened. It’s basically like you could say rebuilding. They understood. They were still showing their loyalty and support and we kept going out there playing. We weren’t trying to lose. That’s for sure. We were going out there trying to get ‘em all man, but I’m happy he came back and got ‘em one man. They deserve it.”