The day Heat fans have been anticipating all season has finally arrived; LeBron James' return to American Airlines Arena is just hours away. The Heat's struggles this season may have taken some of the luster off the match-up, but you can be sure LeBron returning to Miami will be the talk of the sports world in the upcoming days.
Emotions are mixed for the return of "The King." Some Heat fans are still pissed off at how LeBron left the Heat high-and-dry this offseason after the organization gave him so much. Others just are thankful for his tenure and the success he brought to the team in his four years here. It should be an exciting game for both groups, one that they'll remember for years to come.
Here are a few things to watch as the Heat tries to take down the new version of their older self.
5. Will Miami Heat fans keep it classy or nah?
This week Heat execs announced they are planning to honor LeBron James before the Cavalier and Heat face-off Christmas Day; that's really nice. It will be interesting to see if Heat fans are as welcoming as their organization. My money is on the fans following the team's lead, getting caught up in the tribute hype, and standing to applaud before tip; then from then they commence to booing the ever-loving-shit out of him.
That's probably how it should go, and Dwyane Wade said as much when asked about how he hopes the fans receive LeBron in his return.
4. Will LeBron finally thank Miami Heat fans? Do Heat fans care at this point?
Lesser players have thanked fans of a team they were leaving after a shorter stint, so it's odd that LeBron James, after an incredible four-year-run with the Miami Heat, has yet to thank the Heat fan for their support during his time in Miami. At this point does the Heat fan even care? It's been five months since he left, so I'd argue they shouldn't. One can expect LeBron to acknowledge the crowd after the team plays what is sure to be a terrific tribute video full of incredible moments the two shared from 2010-2014.
It will be interesting to see how LeBron treats this game, and how Miami Heat fans treat him in his return to his old stomping grounds.
3. How will the Heat honor James Jones in comparison to LeBron James?
Hey, remember James Jones? He seems like the forgotten man in all of this. Most Heat fans will be talking about LeBron's return. Some might be excited to see Mike Miller again. Few are hyped about the "James Jones Homecoming". It has almost everything to do with the fact that Jones barely saw the court towards the end of his tenure with the Heat, and is equally unused in Cleveland in 2014.
Jones did go to the University of Miami, and spent six seasons with the Heat, so there will definitely be some sort of positive reaction when the Heat run his tribute video during the game Thursday; I'm just wondering how much of one.
2. How cool will it be to see Dwyane Wade vs. LeBron James again? (Hint: really damn cool.)
Long before there was the "Big 3" there was "Wade vs. LeBron" and their meetings where some of the best basketball Heat fans saw all season; now it's back. Of course Wade is no the longer high-flying "Flash" that he was prior to 2010, but he has shown capable of raising his game for a night this season -- so one would expect Wade to bring everything he has against the Cavs Christmas Day.
Hopefully Heat fans get a 2006-like LeBron vs. Wade match-up for Christmas, or at the very least, a Heat win.
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1. How will the Godfather Pat Riley take in LeBron's return?
Not much has been heard from Pat Riley since he was waving pom-pom's before the season telling Heat Nation how great this team would be; it will be interesting to see if he does more than sit in his usual chair with his arms folded, or if he plays a part inLeBron's honoring. Spoiler alert: he won't be presenting any gifts.
This is not the team or season Riley envisioned when he was telling Heat Nation the team would contend, but injuries have taken a toll on the team, making LeBron's departure seem that much more devastating. I wouldn't bet on Riles doing anything special himself for LeBron's return, but how he acts during the ceremony will be something to watch.
My guess is he plays it like Heat fans, cordial in the beginning, vengeful immediately following.