MIAMI, December 26 – The Miami Heat weren’t in a giving mood Thursday as they spoiled the Christmas Day return of LeBron James to southern Florida.
James tallied a team high 30 points and eight assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers lost 101-91 to his former team in one of five NBA contests on the Christmas holiday.
It was James’s first game in South Beach since spurning the Heat to rejoin his hometown Cavaliers in the offseason.
“A lot of emotions come back and you know, I spent four years here with those guys,” he said. “We put in a lot of hard work and dedication just to do the best we could.”
James, who got a big pre-game ovation from the crowd of 19,800, won two NBA titles in four seasons with his former team, which has fallen to a sub .500 club since he left.
But Miami didn’t play like a struggling team.
They were a determined bunch, especially James’ former sidekick Dwyane Wade, who finished with a game-high 31 points. The Heat victory also comes just 48 hours after a disappointing 91-87 loss to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.
“It could have been easy for us to be down on ourselves after that loss but we weren’t,” said Wade, who hugged and chatted with James on the court after the final buzzer.
There were no hard feelings between James and the Heat fans either, as he received plenty of applause and just a smattering of boos during the pre-game introductions.
The Heat also played a video tribute to James during one of the timeouts.
“What me and my teammates created while we were here is going to last forever,” said James, who led the Heat to four championship appearances. “You can never take that out of the (history) books.
“I gave everything and more to the city while I was here. I never disrespected the city, the franchise, or any of my teammates.”
But James said he had yet to speak with Heat president Pat Riley.
“If the opportunity presents itself I don’t mind, but I don’t know what his mindset is,” he added.
James promised reporters a “huge” press conference once he retires at which he would answer questions more freely.
Wade said he was pleased to see the cheers outnumber the boos for James.
“That is the way it should be. There is no reason to say anything negative about LeBron James,” said Wade, who scored 24 of his 31 points in the first half.