On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers head to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers in LeBron James’ homecoming. It will be the first time the star forward will appear in front of the Cleveland faithful since leaving his hometown franchise for the second time.
LeBron’s first return to Cleveland, as a member of the Miami Heat, was met with plenty of vitriol. James’ public announcement, as well as owner Dan Gilbert’s feud with the forward, were contributing factors in making the atmosphere a hateful one for LeBron and his teammates.
This time, things will be different. James will return as arguably the greatest player in NBA history, a champion and someone who ended a decades-long championship drought for the city of Cleveland under wholly unpredictable and unexpected circumstances.
The Cavs are expected to display a tribute video for the best player in franchise history and the reception from fans should be a positive one, even if James claims he’s not putting too much thought into it. But fans are not always rational, so Cavs’ guard George Hill is getting out in front to call out any fans thinking of booing the King.
“If you boo him, you’re an asshole,” Hill said. “He just means too much to this city, to this organization.”
Hill makes a good point. LeBron gave the Cavaliers 11 seasons of his career, by far the most successful stretch in franchise history. Without him, they would not have a championship banner. And that’s all before getting to James’ philanthropic work in Cleveland and Akron that has made him such a hero to the entire state. Booing LeBron would be an extremely tone-deaf response to his return.