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NBA

LeBron Returns Home, Reclaims His Throne

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It wasn’t exactly Odysseus returning home to Ithaca, finding his house full of unruly suitors, and killing them, but it wasn’t far off either. LeBron James return to the arena that he called home for seven years, the area that he still calls home, and had about as great of a night as he could ever imagine.

What was hyped up as Cleveland’s chance to show LeBron how they feel about his desertion and continued mockery of the city started with a roar but ended with a whimper. No one, including myself knew what was going to transpire last night at Quicken Loans Arena, but we as Clevelanders probably should’ve. The Cavs crowd is typically a wine and cheese bunch, more concerned about business deals than pick and rolls, but yesterday was supposed to be different.  20,562 united in hatred, strengthened by rage, but it wasn’t.

The same way the writing was on the wall about LeBron leaving, anyone who has even remotely followed Cleveland sports subconsciously knew what was going to happen. After all, it’s Cleveland, and in Cleveland things don’t go as planned. Maybe Clevelanders were trying to build off of the momentum that saw the Browns on Sunday, for once, snatch victory from defeat. Maybe Clevelanders that watched the Cavs on opening night defy expectations and beat the Celtics  to show that they, and the city, aren’t dead, would carry over. Maybe they were just hoping, wishing, pleading that something, anything, would break right for this city. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. For Cleveland fans, that means game after game, season after season of getting hopes up to unfathomable levels, only to have them crushed under the anvil-like weight of missed opportunities and resolute failure.

Yesterday’s game was a chance for Cleveland to stand up and be noticed. Sure, it was just another game in a league with the most meaningless regular season in professional sports, but in Cleveland it was supposed to be different. The real fans tried to ratchet up the intensity from the upper deck, fans booed, waved signs, a spattering of squabbles broke out, but in the end, Cleveland fans avoided national embarrassment. The Cavs players on the other hand, did not.

Leading up to the game, the sports media was ostensibly begging Cleveland not to riot, while secretly wishing that they would. Masochists all around the country watched with bated breath to see what would go down, waiting for the other shoe to drop and all hell to break loose. While waiting for a riot, instead they witnessed a beating.

LeBron was good last night, really good. You knew that he would either be great or terrible, and in Cleveland, that means great. When his first shot barely touched the net on the way through Cleveland’s collective heart sank. They knew what was coming. The fans still waved their homemade signs, continued to boo, chant, and try to rattle their former savior. It wasn’t going to work, not on that night. Basket after basket, smile after smile, LeBron took over the court. He set an arena and team record for points in a quarter with 24 in the 3rd. He then showed mercy on his former mates by watching the 4th from the comfort of the bench with his old running mate Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Worst of all for Cleveland, LeBron came off classy. He did his work on the court, left no doubts, and then after the final buzzer, he answered each question with praise for the fans of Cleveland. It was essentially watching Brad Pitt come into your house, sleep with your wife and high five you on the way out. He did slip up once as he left the court, when questioned by Craig Sager, LeBron referred to his own “greatness.” He clarified the meaning later, but it didn’t matter, on the court he is great, and that was obvious to anyone that watched, painfully so in Cleveland.

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