We laughed, we cried, then we laughed again. Merry Christmas, Heat fans.
In LeBron James' first game back in Miami, the Heat put together its most LeBron-era-like performance Thursday, beating the Cavs 101-91. That one felt damned good and couldn't have come at a better time or on a bigger stage for a team coming off an embarrassing loss.
LeBron's much-anticipated return to Miami went just about as well as Heat fans could have hoped; Wade scored 31, Deng hit 25, and the team as a whole showed more energy than it has all season. This is what Miami Heat fans pictured when the team declared this offseason that it was not done contending. For a night, the old Miami Heat was back.
Best. Christmas. Ever.
James scored 30 on 9-16 shooting in his reunion but for the most part was held in check all night. James went just 10 of 18 at the free throw line and at one point was forced back into the locker room with a left leg injury that occurred when he hopped two rows behind the basket chasing an errant Kevin Love outlet pass.
In the end, it was much of the same for the Cavs; terrible defense, and erratic offense. The Heat took advantage of the sub par Cavs defense early, as they dropped a 62 point first half on LeBron;s new team. Wade scored 24 of his 31 points in the first half, but cooled down late.
The story of the game, however, was the return of "The King." Coming home (!) for his first time since leaving in free agency this past July, James admitted to having "butterflies" before the game, and much the same could be said for the fans in attendance.
To the surprise of no one, Miami kept it classy in LeBron's return
Will they boo or will they cheer? That was the million-dollar question. The answer was the Miami Heat organization and its fans did what they have been doing for nearly the past three decades now -- showed nothing but respect and class. The Heat aired a tribute video for LeBron James during a timeout early in the first quarter, then did the same for James Jones soon thereafter; and Heat fans stood and applauded both, just as you would have expected.
Heat fans have handled the departure of the best player in the world pretty much perfectly. It was expected that there would be a mixture of boos for LeBron at some points in the night, but from all accounts, the reaction from Heat fans was nothing but positive.
This game seemed like closure for Heat fans, and they handled it extraordinary well. Heat fans came out looking great in all this, and the reaction on social media was overwhelmingly in favor of how Miami treated LeBron in his return to Dade County.
LeBron gets standing ovation after tribute video https://t.co/QogIfWt8iQ— gifdsports (@gifdsports) December 25, 2014
LeBron waving to the standing O crowd. There's the thank you.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) December 25, 2014
Heat played a video tribute and LeBron James stared it down. Fans overwhelming cheered him on. James acknowledged them with a hand raise.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) December 25, 2014
There it was. Video of LeBron plays at time-out. Crowd stood and gave standing ovation. LeBron waved to crowd. Great scene. And we move on.— Dave Hyde (@davehydesports) December 25, 2014
As I tweeted yesterday, it's Xmas, 80degrees, bikinis/beaches near and cruise ships docked behind arena. Can't sustain anger long here.— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) December 25, 2014
Most Heat fans have moved on from LeBron James. Good for them.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) December 25, 2014
But good move by the REAL Heat fans to cheer LeBron tonight during introductions. Much deserved.— Zak Smith (@TheZakSmith) December 26, 2014
The classy reception from Miami fans has a lot to do w/how Heat org. handled Lebron's return. Same goes 4 gross display in Cleveland in '10— Adam Kuperstein (@AKuperstein) December 26, 2014
Miami Heat fans - you're awesome. Showing @kingjames some love was very classy. Very rare in any sport and also very cool.— Court Bauer (@courtbauer) December 26, 2014
This was Pat Riley's reaction during the LeBron tribute video. pic.twitter.com/Qr3H4mknAb— Rizz (@Rizzmigizz) December 25, 2014