March 1, 2024

Morgan Stutz ’15,
Tuesday, Oct. 29 marked the start of the 2014-2015 NBA season. Two days later, LeBron James stepped onto the court for his first home game in Cleveland since 2010.
When he entered the NBA out of high school, James was welcomed to the Cleveland Cavaliers as Ohio’s own native son. His talent and on court presence rejuvenated interest in professional basketball in sports fans throughout Ohio. After several Playoff runs that did not result in NBA Championships, James made his notorious decision to seek success in Miami alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. As part of the Miami Heat’s “big three,” James went on to win two Championships. Instead of achieving the rare three-peat, his team was defeated this past season by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. With uncertainty for the Heat’s future, James again faced free agency and made the decision to return to the team that drafted him in 2003.
Still touted as the best basketball player in the game today, James’ return Thursday brought a Playoff-like atmosphere to the Quicken Loans Arena. He joins fellow NBA All-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to form a new “big three” on his old team. The team’s first game of the new season pitted them against the New York Knicks. The Cavs had a solid start, but only led the Knicks 44-42 at the half, and struggled even more in the later quarters of the game. Although the team’s five starters were each in double digits in scoring, they received only 12 points from the bench and fell to the Knicks 90-95.
Though the initial return was ultimately bittersweet — as it ended in a loss — there was redemption a day later in the Cavs’ overtime win in Chicago against the Bulls. James posted impressive numbers with 36 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block. In addition, two players on the Cavs — Love and Tristan Thompson — achieved double-doubles in point and rebounds against a gritty Bulls team known for defense. The final score was 114-108, after outscoring the Bulls 16-10 in overtime.
A season is not determined in only a few games; James and the Cavaliers have the chance to grow as a team and adapt to the play style of rookie NBA coach David Blatt.  Blatt’s coaching success includes experience in the Israeli league and as head coach for the Russian national team.
For the Cavaliers, the addition of James and Love this season has instantly made them Playoff contenders—on paper. In the less competitive Eastern Conference of the NBA, the Cavaliers have a real chance to be successful throughout the season. The greatest challenges this season may be against the veteran Bulls and Miami Heat, as well as the rising talent of the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards.
James left to jeers and has come back to cheers. Only time will tell if his decision to come back to Cleveland has truly healed the wounds of its basketball fans. Whether or not the Cavs are successful this season will be one to watch.

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