Heat Honors LeBron in Christmas Win Over the Cavs

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.

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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi