CLEVELAND (AP) - Boos rained down on LeBron James in the arena where he once ruled. Returning to Cleveland for the first time as a visiting player, James was greeted with deafening boos, vulgar chants and some unprintable words from Cavaliers fans as he took the floor Thursday night as a member of the Miami Heat.
With security guards lining his entrance to the court, James came hopping out of the tunnel and into an electrically charged atmosphere, as more than 20,000 fans, who have waited five months to see him, turned their hostilities on the two-time NBA MVP.
With speculation that James would skip his pregame powder toss ritual, he went ahead with it anyway, leaving a cloud of smoke above his head as the crowd screamed its disapproval.
One fan was immediately ejected after he pointed at James and screamed in the superstar's face. The Cavaliers promised to safeguard James, who scorned them this summer when he decided to leave as a free agent and join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
As the Akron native took pregame layups, Cleveland fans vented, some holding up signs that read "Akron Hates You Too," "Quitter" and "Remember Game 5," a reference to his last game with the Cavs in Quicken Loans Arena, a lopsided loss to the Boston Celtics.
James was the first player introduced and as he lined up for the national anthem, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was shown on the arena's giant scoreboard, drawing a raucous ovation. In the hours after James' infamous announcement that he would sign with the Heat, Gilbert ripped him in an open letter to Cavs fans and later accused the 25-year-old of quitting during the playoffs the past two seasons.
James looked up and noticed the ovation was for Gilbert. He shook his head, tapped his feet and turned to his new teammates, pumping his fist as he told them something.
Moments later, the Cavs paraded out some other local sports stars, including former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, current wide receiver Joshua Cribbs, Indians slugger Travis Hafner, and comedian Drew Carey _ all wearing Cleveland's wine-and-gold uniform.