Lakers' LeBron James Says 'I Appreciate' Cavs Fans After Return to Cleveland

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 21: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers recognizes the fans after the Cleveland Cavaliers honored James during a time-out during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 21, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

LeBron James may now be a Los Angeles Laker, but Cleveland Cavaliers fans will always hold a special place in his heart.

Wednesday night marked James' first game back in his home state since leaving in free agency this past summer.

Cavs fans welcomed their former star home with a thunderous ovation during pregame introductions:

Spencer Davies @SpinDavies

Cleveland has been overwhelmingly supportive of LeBron at the Q before the game. Defeaning cheers during intros. https://t.co/WAriYKVE5A

The Cavaliers then paid tribute to the player who delivered the franchise's first championship back in 2016 with a special video during the first timeout break of the game. And once again, the Quicken Loans Arena crowd showered James with love—and he appreciated it.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Cavs tribute video to Bron 👏 (via @BenAxelrod) https://t.co/UyJ0piRQWj

"I appreciate these fans, just as much as they appreciate me," James said after the game, according to ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk. "Every single night we stepped on the floor, they always showed their appreciation to not only myself, but to my teammates over these 11 years, especially the last four years, those championship runs that we were making, so that was just my salute to them for appreciating what I was able to accomplish with my teammates and coaches along those four years."

James put on a show in Cleveland on Wednesday, going off for 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in a 109-105 victory.

It was a much different vibe than when James first returned to the Q as a member of the Miami Heat during the 2010-11 season. The arena and the city was full of hatred after the Akron native initially left them in 2010 via "The Decision." But after the four-time NBA MVP came home, led the Cavs to four consecutive Finals and a championship, there was nothing but appreciation for the superstar who has given the franchise 11 years of his career.

"This experience has been great," James added, per Youngmisuk. "So it's all about growth, and we all have grown from that moment eight years ago. So I kind of leave the past in the past and always focus on the present and see what happens in the future."

The loss dropped the Cavaliers to 2-14 on the season. But at least for one night, the people in Cleveland had reason to cheer.