LeBron James makes his return to Quicken Loans Arena tonight, as his L.A. Lakers visit the Cavs. James signed a deal with the Lakers over the summer, leaving Cleveland for a second time. The Cavs have planned a video tribute to the star early in the game. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says overall, this homecoming has a much different feel than when he joined the Miami Heat in 2010.
2010 vs. 2018
"It was the ugliest sports event I've ever been to," Pluto said. "There was booing and this negative, hostile sense. And, the Cavs were terrible and the Heat won big."
Pluto says back then, the circumstances were much different. In 2010, James announced the decision on live TV. "The national reaction was totally anti-LeBron, the way he basically humiliated his hometown."
Earning the right to go
But this time, Pluto says James earned his right to go. "He's played 15 years in the NBA. Eleven have been in Cleveland. He's played more games in a Cleveland uniform than any other Cavalier by far."
Then, he delivered the 2016 NBA title. "In dramatic fashion, down 3-1 to Golden State and won in seven games. Last year, when the Cavs were struggling, he carried the team on his back to the Finals. It was the greatest postseason performance of any player I've ever seen. Whatever he had, he gave. And my feeling is, whatever he wanted to do next, go ahead."
"In the meantime, we've had Kyrie Irving demand a trade in the middle of a contract. LeBron has always played out his contracts and played by the rules. So when he switched teams, he was a free agent."
Off the court
And Pluto says another aspect that's different now as opposed to 2010 is his continued commitment to Akron. James' foundation opened the I PROMISE public school over the summer for 240 at-risk third- and fourth-graders. "Its a lot more than writing a check," Pluto said.
"In my mind, when LeBron comes back with the Lakers, he deserves a standing ovation."