Tonight, as the freeways and airports fill up with people heading home, the one everyone is taking about is LeBron James, heading home to Northeast, Ohio, Tonight’s matchup of the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers marks LeBron’s first trip back to Quicken Loans Arena since ending his second tenure with the Cavs, and becoming a member of the Lakers.
But what is a Cav fan to do?
We all know LeBron’s story. A kid from Akron becomes the #1 overall pick, drafted by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, becomes one of the greatest players ever, leaves town after 7 years, embarrasses the city in the way he announced his departure, wins a few championships in Miami, comes back home promising a championship, delivers on his promise, and leaves again.
The last time LeBron left, Cavs fans were mad, but in reality, we were hurt. One fan burned his jersey. His name must have been Cleveland, because ESPN still shows that clip, saying “Cleveland burned their LeBron Jerseys. When LeBron came back for his first game against the Cavs to one of the most hostile environments the NBA has seen. People stood outside The Q Arena handing out flyers with which hateful jeers to do when, from “Akron Hates You” to “De-Lon-Te,” a reference to rumors about a former teammate and a member of the James family.
This time things are much different. This time there is no hate, and maybe a little hurt. The Cavs are league worst 2-13.
Tyron Lue, who was the head coach the second half of the 2016 championship season, has been fired. There is distain amongst the players, and fan favorite JR Smith, was distanced from the team after publicly saying “I don’t think the goal is to win. I think the goal is to …lose to get lottery picks.” LeBron’s team is off to a 9-7 start, the same record as his teams had after each of his previous departures, from Cleveland and Miami.
His teams went on to the NBA Finals in each of those seasons.
So what is a Cav fan to do tonight when LeBron steps on the court? We need to show appreciation for a native son. We need to show appreciation for a world championship, our first since 1964. But we also need to show that we are Clevelanders, that we root for our hometown teams no matter what. “We root for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back of the jersey.”
When LeBron is introduced with the Lakers starting 5, clap (or don’t clap) for him like you would Lonzo Ball, or Lance Stevenson. When he is on the court dribbling the ball, or making shots, don’t cheer, but definitely don’t boo, keep it classy. Your chance to boo will come when he’s on the free throw line, as you would with any player in another team’s jersey. That’s just part of home court advantage.
The Cavs are planning on showing a tribute video to LeBron, early during the game, during a time out. This is our chance as a city to show how things are different that the first time he left. This is our chance to show our gratitude for a local boy done good, to show Classy Cleveland. This is when we need to stand up, and applaud, to say “Thank You LeBron” for all he has done for the community, from the championship, to the bicycles for kids, to the I Promise School.
Stand up and cheer the greatest athlete to not only play for any Cleveland team, but to represent out region well with everything he does off the court as well.
And when that video is over, just treat him as a member of the opposing team again.