CLEVELAND – He tuned out the boos. He smiled at the derisive chants. He embraced all the negativity Cleveland could muster.
LeBron James wasn’t fazed by anything. He brought his talents back home and reminded everyone – even the haters – why he’s missed.
Returning as a villain to his native state and the city he scorned this summer, James scored 38 points – 24 in a virtuoso third-quarter performance – to lead the Miami Heat to a 118-90 win on Thursday night, turning his hostile homecoming into another embarrassing moment for the Cavaliers.
By halftime, James was the one having fun. By the fourth quarter, he was watching from the bench as Cavs fans headed into the cold for a disappointing drive home.
As he did so many times during seven seasons for the Cavs, the two-time league MVP did anything he wanted on the floor. In the third quarter, he made 10 of 12 shots, hit jumpers from every angle and taunted Cleveland’s bench after draining a seemingly impossible baseline jumper.
“I know this court. I’ve made a lot of shots on this court,” he said. “Just wanted to be aggressive, just try to keep them out of the game. I knew they were going to try to make a run in the third quarter, but we were able to get stops and we were able to get some shots.”
With security guards forming a human barricade to line his entrance, James came hopping out of the tunnel and into the electrically charged atmosphere inside Quicken Loans Arena, as more than 20,000 fans turned their fury on James.
It was rowdy, but thankfully, not violent. There were a few minor incidents in the stands.