LeBron James and the 15 Most Controversial Sports Homecomings Ever
LeBron James is due for a nasty homecoming when his Miami Heat take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.
In case you haven't heard anything about it, LeBron left the Cavs this offseason to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach. He is also an Ohio native who was supposed to deliver a long overdue championship to his hometown team.
Make no mistake, this is a rather controversial homecoming.
But hey, it's not the first in the long history of sports. Here are 14 other players that got nasty greetings when they returned home.
15. Terrell Owens Returns To Philadelphia
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Philadelphia fans are notorious for being, in a word, mean. They often times don't like the players and coaches on their own teams, much less those that wear the other colors.
But you can't blame them for wanting to give Terrell Owens a properly nasty welcoming when he returned to Philadelphia for the first time as a member of the Dallas Cowboys in 2006.
In 2005, Owens had alienated his teammates and coaches so badly that the Eagles basically kicked him off the team.
Owens' return to Philly was pretty much national news all week, and everybody was wondering what was going to happen. Well, Owens was not greeted kindly, but that's about all that happened. Instead, Donovan McNabb stole their attention with 354 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Owens had just three catches and threw a hissy fit in the locker room after the game.
14. Manny Ramirez Returns To Boston
There's an awful lot of movement in baseball, so get ready to see a lot of baseball players on this list.
The Boston Red Sox traded Manny Ramirez, their star slugger and MVP from the 2004 World Series, to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the middle of the 2008 season.
The trade, of course, was necessitated by a sour relationship between Manny and the team that had gotten increasingly ugly throughout the course of the season. He got into a dugout scrum with first baseman Kevin Youkilis, reportedly shoved the team's traveling secretary to the ground, and repeatedly dogged it in the field.
So when Manny returned as Dodger in 2010, he didn't exactly receive a royal welcome. The reaction was largely mixed, but the boos were clearly much louder.
13. Sean Avery Returns To New York
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Sean Avery has always been something of a jackass. He's never really had control over his brain-mouth filter. He pisses other players off while on the ice, and it just seems like he just plain lives to agitate people.
Nevertheless, he was also something of a fan favorite with the New York Rangers from 2007-2008. But in his first game back in Madison Square Garden as a member of the Dallas Stars in October of 2008, he made what should have been a relatively harmless return into a boo-fest.
Before the game, Avery shouted at the Rangers' goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, and proceeded to wage a war of words with Lundqvist throughout the whole game.
“That’s just me being me, getting myself into the game,” he said after the game.
That may be, but it didn't sit well with the Rangers' faithful, who viciously booed him every time he touched the puck. It just goes to show that any homecoming can become controversial given the right, or wrong, person.
12. Michael Vick Returns To Atlanta
Mike Vick was a three-time Pro Bowler and one of the NFL's most exciting players early in his career with the Atlanta Falcons.
But then it was revealed that Vick was the center of an illegal dog-fighting ring and he was sent to prison in 2007. Without their franchise player, the Falcons went 4-12 and it seemed like they were going to be doomed for an extended period of time.
But Matt Ryan came along and they were OK. Vick got out of prison in 2009 and signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. He played his first game in Atlanta in Week 13 and he was welcomed with a sort of uncomfortable mix of boos and cheers when he entered the game in relief of Donovan McNabb for a few plays.
He ended up throwing for a touchdown and running for another in Philly's 34-7 win.
I can't embed it here, but nfl.com has a good video of Vick's return to Atlanta.
11. Johnny Damon Returns To Boston
As awkward as Manny's return to Boston as a Dodger was, Johnny Damon's first game in Fenway as a member of the Yankees was downright ugly.
Damon left the Sox after the 2005 season after the team refused to pony up the years and cash that Damon wanted on a new contract.
As always, the Yankees were more than willing to break the bank, and they signed Damon to a four-year, $52 million contract.
Whereas there were some cheers for Manny, there was not a single person in Fenway Park that was happy to see Damon during his first at bat as a Yankee.
10. Rudy Giuliani Booed at Yankee Stadium
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It almost seemed like Rudy Giuliani was a member of the Yankees organization while he was the Mayor of New York from 1994-2001.
In retrospect, this may have had something to do with George Steinbrenner's notorious preference for all things right wing.
But when Giuliani showed up to a Yankee playoff game in 2007, right in the middle of his ultimately futile presidential campaign, it became obvious that the Yankee Stadium crowd did not share the Boss's politics.
Whenever Giuliani's face was shown in the big video board, he was booed. And when it was shown during the performance of "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch, the former mayor was booed louder.
9. Jason Giambi Returns To Oakland
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Jason Giambi was one of the game's most feared hitters toward the end of his career with the Oakland A's, and he had become something of a cult hero with his long hair and professional-wrestling attitude.
But he signed with the Yankees for a huge pile of money after the 2001 season. Given the small market nature of the A's, this was essentially a foregone conclusion.
But the fans were still miffed.
When the Yankees visited Oakland in late April of 2002, I can tell you from memory that the boos were the loudest I've ever heard. I remember because I was there and because I was booing too, of course.
A young Carlos Pena was the A's new first baseman and one fan had a sign that read: "Replaced by a Rookie!"
In a 2005 game in Oakland, Giambi was hit by a beer on his way back to the dugout. Yup, they never did get over it.
8. JD Drew Plays In Philadelphia For First Time
JD Drew never actually played for the Phillies, but the Philadelphia faithful will probably never forgive him for the fact that he should have.
Indeed, Drew was drafted by the Phillies with the second overall pick in the 1997 draft, but he and agent Scott Boras wanted too much money.
And so Drew ended up playing independent baseball instead and he was re-selected by the Cardinals in 1998.
In his first at-bat in Veterans Stadium in 1999, Drew was booed mercilessly and some fans threw D batteries at him. The amount of debris eventually caused a 10-minute delay.
You stay classy, Philadelphia.
By the way, a shoutout to BR Featured Columnist Adam Rosen. His article on the 10 Worst Philadelphia Sports Fans Moments contributed heavily to this slide.
7. Deion Sanders Returns To Atlanta
Michael Vick's return to Atlanta may have been awkward, but at least he didn't get into any fights.
The same cannot be said of Deion Sanders' first game in the Georgia Dome as a member of the 49ers. Deion had been a fifth overall pick of the Falcons in 1989 and played five seasons with the team before leaving for the Bay Area in 1994.
If you can look past the awful commentary in the attached video, you'll see him going Andre Johnson with Andre Rison (rather fitting), which naturally didn't aid his already flimsy standing with the Atlanta fans.
He proceeded to intercept a pass and turn it into a 93-yard touchdown return, during which he stared down the Falcons' sideline.
Well, at least he had a good game.
6. David Beckham Booed By LA Galaxy Fans Upon Return From Milan
It just seems like it's never been smooth sailing for David Beckham ever since he came to America in 2007.
Indeed, Beckham broke a lot of hearts when he came to the LA Galaxy, and he proceeded to piss off LA fans when he left the team on loan to Milan in 2009.
Beckham's loan made him miss the first half of the 2009 MLS season. When he returned to LA for his first game back with the Galaxy, he was greeted with signs that said "Go Home Fraud" and "Part Time Player."
As this video shows, he also got into it with some of the fans.
5. Alex Rodriguez Returns To Seattle
Alex Rodriguez became one of baseball's biggest superstars in the years after he came up with the Seattle Mariners. He seemed to have peaked in 2000, when he hit. 316 with 41 home runs and 132 RBIs, which came just in time for his first shot at free agency.
The Mariners wanted him back, but instead A-Rod signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers. It was by far the largest contract in the history of sports.
Naturally, Mariners fans felt betrayed. And when Rodriguez returned to Safeco Field for the first time, it didn't help that the Rangers were in last place in the AL West and the Mariners were in first by a mile.
Regardless, A-Rod probably didn't hear a single cheer in his return.
4. LeBron James' Return To Cleveland
LeBron's return to Cleveland is still a day way, but we already know that it's not going to be a very happy homecoming for the King.
Indeed, when people are pissed off at you to the point that they burn your jersey in the streets, you know those same people are not going to be too thrilled to see the man wearing the jersey come striding onto the court.
I don't know what the acoustics are like in Quicken Loans Arena, but one suspects that the boos will be deafening no matter what. It's not going to be pretty.
3. Brett Favre Returns To Green Bay
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There didn't seem to be as much animosity for Brett Favre among the Packers' faithful when he went to New York as there was when he signed with Minnesota.
And for good reason. The Vikings are one of the Packers' most hated rivals and their fans simply didn't like the idea of the franchise's most legendary quarterback wearing purple.
Favre was jeered quite viciously when his Vikings rolled into Lambeau Field in Week 8 of the 2009 season. He responded by throwing four touchdowns and leading the Vikings to a 38-26 win.
Suffice is to say that those were better days for Brett.
2. Pat Riley Returns To New York
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Pat Riley was the head coach of the New York Knicks from 1991-1995, leading the Knicks to their best regular season record of all-time and winning the Coach of the Year award in 1993.
But after the 1995 season was over, Riley resigned via fax so he could become the head coach of the Miami Heat.
When the Heat rolled into a December game at Madison Square Garden, Riley, who was then known as "Pat the Rat" around New York, was booed soundly.
The Heat ended up losing the game 89-70.
1. Roger Clemens Returns To Boston
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Yeah, those Red Sox fans don't like it when their ex-players return as Yankees. And they've never hated any visiting player as much as they hated Roger Clemens.
It was apparent while Roger Clemens was winning Cy Youngs with the Blue Jays that the Red Sox probably should not have let him go.
But when he ended up with the Yankees in 1999, the only thing on their minds was letting the Rocket know what they really thought of his new pinstripes.
Clemens didn't get a start at Fenway until August, but he was loudly booed at the All-Star game when he took part in an honorary ceremony wearing a Yankees cap. When his August start did finally roll around, he was booed twice as loud.
This would be a trend for the remaining years of his career as well, and it was just as ugly every time.
And that's why Roger is No. 1.