There remains a degree of relevance to the LeBron James-returns-to-face-his-former-teams tour that is headed to Cleveland on Wednesday night.
James will be with the Lakers this time when he plays the Cleveland Cavaliers for the first time since leaving Cleveland for a second time last July.
He began this journey of facing his former teams Sunday, when the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat at Miami. He spent four seasons with the Heat, taking them to four consecutive NBA Finals and winning two championships before returning to Cleveland in 2014.
But James grew up in Akron, Ohio, about 45 minutes from Cleveland.
He delivered the championship-starved city an NBA championship in 2016 and played 11 seasons in Cleveland. In July, he opened I Promise School in Akron, an elementary school for at-risk kids. He has been a driving force for positive change in his community.
So, yes, going back to Cleveland means much more to James, even if he tried to downplay it after Sunday’s game.
“I don’t know,” he said of his return. “I don’t try to put too much into it. I will go out there and see if we can keep this thing going. I think we are playing some really good ball right now. I will see some familiar faces like I did when I arrived here. I will think about some of the good, I will think about some of the bad, I will think about some of the great that I had with the franchise obviously and then once the tip ball gets going, it is time to go to work. It will be good to see some of my family that will come to the game, see some of my friends as well and get the thing going.”
The reception from Cavaliers fans will be closely monitored.
When he left in 2010 to join the Heat, James was met with vitriol in his first game back in Cleveland.
He was asked what he’d like to see this time.
“Oh no, that’s not for me, that’s not for me to debate,” he said. “I think whatever happens, happens. But I will be in uniform, I will be there and I will be trying to get a victory.”
He’ll probably try to put on the type of show that Cavaliers fans have seen before.
James gave Heat fans a game to remember Sunday night, scoring a season-high 51 points.
That’s he’s in his 16th season and still capable of such outings shows that he can still dominate.
“Being available for my teammates is the most important thing to me,” James said. “For me to continue to play at the level I’m playing at and just be available, in uniform … I don’t know sometimes. I really don’t know. I go out and my love for the game keeps me going and my ability to just put in the work and then see what happens after that.