CLEVELAND » LeBron James is back on the floor where he took his first steps in the NBA.
Four years after leaving for Miami, James, again wearing the familiar No. 23 wine-and-gold Cavaliers uniform, performed for Cleveland fans as the team held a scrimmage before a nearly filled Quicken Loans Arena.
After being introduced, James was welcomed with a deafening roar by Cavs fans, who got their first look at a team expected to bring the city its first pro sports championship since 1964.
"I can’t believe this," said 19-year-old Alex Krocker from Bolivar, Ohio. "I’ve waited my whole life for a Cavs team like this, for a Cleveland team like this. It’s crazy."
Moments after the opening tip, James, who announced he was returning on July 11, reminded Cleveland fans what they’ve been missing. He was short with his first shot, a fade-away baseline jumper. But he grabbed his own rebound and calmly sank a 3-pointer. He followed that with a two-handed dunk and later drove the lane for one his signature slams, the kind of play that has elevated him to the world’s best player.
The Cavs gave away 20,000 free tickets for the event and the arena was at more than three-quarters of its 20,000-seat capacity when the scrimmage started. Beyond seeing James, Cleveland fans were anxious to watch him play with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and elite forward Kevin Love, acquired this summer in a trade from Minnesota.
Before taking the floor, James gathered his teammates in a hallway outside the locker room and led them in prayer. He then told them to "play hard and play smart. Let’s get better today."
James couldn’t miss the opportunity to pull a prank on unsuspecting rookies Joe Harris and Alex Kirk. James told the two youngsters to lead the team out of the tunnel, and when they headed toward the court, the superstar held the rest of the Cavs back, leading to an embarrassing moment for Harris and Kirk.