LeBron James made a triumphant return to Cleveland and received a standing ovation from supportive fans before leading the Los Angeles Lakers over the Cavaliers 109-105 on Wednesday.
James scored 32 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and made seven assists to spark the Lakers, who closed the contest with an 18-6 run to win for the sixth time in seven games.
“We cranked up our defense in the fourth quarter,” James said. “They played a heck of a game but we kept our composure. We’re a young crew. We keep getting better.”
It was an emotional night for James in his first game back leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers in July, but nothing like his 2010 return after departing Cleveland for Miami and fans, feeling betrayed, booed him.
He left Miami for the Cavs in 2014 and made good on his vow to make the Cavs into champions, so “King” James was treated royally this time.
There were cheers when James trotted onto the court for pre-game warm-ups, a huge standing ovation when he was introduced and, after James scored on the Lakers’ first possession, a video highlight tribute to huge applause.
“To come back and get the reception I got, it means a lot not only to myself but my family,” James said.
“My 11 years I played for this franchise I tried to give everything I could on and off the court.”
The Lakers improved to 10-7, their best record since April 2013, while the Cavs fell to an NBA-worst 2-14.