I gave everything and more to this city when I was here. Never disrespected this city or the franchise, or any of my teammates. Everything is professional. I gave it all. That's all I can do. —LeBron James
MIAMI — LeBron James was running the gamut of emotions Thursday when he arrived at the arena that he called home for the past four seasons.
So did the fans who were seeing him again.
They booed the four-time NBA MVP when he and the Cleveland Cavaliers took the court for warmups, kept booing when he touched the ball, gave him a mixed reaction when he was introduced as a starter, then cheered — that is, cheered — when he turned the ball over on one of his first touches.
But perhaps the truest measure of how James is remembered came during the first timeout of the game, when the Heat unveiled a tribute video for their former star — a minute-long series of clips commemorating his four NBA Finals runs and two titles in Miami, after which he waved to the crowd and got a lengthy standing ovation.
No, Miami isn't happy he left.
Also, no, Miami apparently hasn't forgotten what he meant to that Heat run.
"I gave everything and more to this city when I was here," James said before the game, his first time back at the arena since leaving Miami for Cleveland this past summer. "Never disrespected this city or the franchise, or any of my teammates. Everything is professional. I gave it all. That's all I can do."
James took a seat on the scorers' table near midcourt for the last 30 seconds or so of that video.
"I've got a lot of memories here, man," James said.
It was predictably an emotional return for James, who acknowledged feeling butterflies when he walked in and headed toward the visitors' locker room for the first time in nearly five years.
Many around him took pictures when he did his traditional powder toss before taking the court, and he exchanged huge hugs with several Heat players moments later.
He also pointed toward the Heat bench and tapped his heart.
"What me and my teammates created here while we were here, it's going to last forever," James said. "You can never take that out of the books. You can never take that from anything. Whatever else that comes with it, we'll deal with it then."
Whatever negativity James heard on Thursday, it was nothing like his last such "homecoming" game — the one when he returned to Cleveland in 2010 for the first time since joining the Heat.
He said he didn't "circle" Thursday's game on his calendar, saying he's long past things like that.
"I'm sure it means something to him," Cavs coach David Blatt said before the game. "LeBron being the great professional he is, he knows you have to play the game and not the occasion."
James has remained friends with several Heat players, and interacted with some members of the team's front office at Dwyane Wade's wedding this offseason.
And many Heat players said in the days leading up to this showdown that they expected James to be greeted with at least some measure of appreciation.
In turn, James said he appreciated those sentiments, and the bonds that remain.
"It shows what we were able to do in that locker room," James said.