CLEVELAND | LeBron James insisted it wasn’t personal, even if it was for 20,000 or so fans.
It was James‘ first game back in the city where he played for seven years before leaving via free agency, angering disbelieving fans who considered him one of their own.
“I don’t hold any grudges,” said the player once heralded as “King James” by most of those same irate fans. “They came out to support their team.”
Before the game, fans peppered him with obscene chants and booed every time he appeared on the giant monitors over midcourt. They held up signs that read, “Quitness” and “Play Like It’s Game Five” — a reference to his Nike marketing campaign and also last season’s pivotal game in the playoff series with Boston, when many felt James had quit on the Cavaliers. There were five guys wearing a single letter each on their white T-shirts that spelled out: LeBum.
He said he tried to smile and shrug off the insults.
“I just tried to keep a clear head,” he said. “It’s nothing personal from myself to these fans. It won’t be. Ever.”
“It was a great collective effort,” said coach Erik Spoelstra. “This is the first time I have seen this connection all year long.”
Daniel Gibson scored 21 for the Cavaliers, who have lost six of eight and now play seven of their next eight on the road.
James had 10 more points than Cleveland’s starting lineup.
He had half the points in a 16-0 first-quarter run that immediately knocked the Cavaliers back on their heels.
Ahead by 19 at the half, the Heat poured it on by shooting 73 percent from the field in the third quarter, with James scoring 24 points while going 10 of 12 and Wade hitting all four of his attempts. The lead stretched to 30 points and beyond.
“I thought he played great,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said of James. “Simple as that. I thought he played great.”
James sat on the bench for all of the fourth quarter, with dozens of security guards and police lining the team’s entrance to the court and guarding against objects thrown at him. After the final seconds sifted away, he left without incident.