CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Following “the decision’ LeBron James became public enemy number one – not just in Cleveland but across the country.
His first season in Miami was anything but a picnic and ended with another playoff debacle – this time on the biggest stage – The NBA Finals.
James has tried to turn over a new leaf – at least PR-wise in 2012 and his only return to Cleveland this season was another step in remaking his image.
Thursday James returned to the floor that he practiced on as a rookie – the practice court inside Quicken Loans Arena.
It is also where he extended an olive branch to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and fans in Cleveland when he was asked about potentially returning to the Cavaliers.
“I don’t know but I think it would be great,” James said. “It would be fun to play in front of these fans again. I had a lot of fun times (during) my seven years here. You can’t predict the future and hopefully I continue to stay healthy.
“I’m here as a Miami Heat player and I am happy where I am at now but I don’t rule that out in any sense and if I decide to come back hopefully the fans will accept me.”
James also acknowledged that he understood that Gilbert, who wrote a scathing email to fans that questioned James’ character and went as far as to accuse him of quitting during the 2009 and 2010 playoffs, spoke out of anger following his departure and may have regrets about what he said and how he said it.
However, James also hasn’t gone out of his way to try and mend the bridge with Gilbert that he all but nuked by leaving Cleveland without notice and on national television.
“There hasn’t been any attempts, I don’t have any hard feelings,” James said. “He said what he said and I moved on but there’s been no attempt to patch things up.”
James doesn’t hold any grudges against Gilbert or Cavaliers fans for their reactions to his defection to Miami.
He went as far to admit that it wasn’t the best decision that he’s made.
“I don’t hold grudges, a little bit but I don’t hold them long,” James said. “He said what he said out of anger and he probably wants to take that back but I made a mistake too.
“There’s some things that I want to take back as well so you learn from the mistakes and you move on.”
James has put last season, which he admitted was very difficult on him, in the rear view mirror and has made an effort to return to his roots and old self.
“I’m back to how I was in Cleveland,” James said. “Just having fun with the game, appreciating the game, loving the game and just playing at a high level. I got away from that last year. It was a difficult year for me last year making the whole transition on and off of the floor going through everything I went through.
“I’m back to playing the way that I know how to play.”
James is back to his typical MVP-like form averaging 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.
“This is the best I’ve felt on the court in about 14 months,” James said. “I feel great and have been trying to play at a high level to try and help this team every night win ballgames.”
Although he is hardly expecting a warm reception Friday night when the Heat take on the Cavaliers, James doesn’t think the crowd will be as hostile as it was on December 2, 2010.
“I understand, it doesn’t sting anymore,” James said. “The booing isn’t as bad as it was last year so it’s not even a big deal.
“I’m always excited to come back. They’ve got some of the best fans that the NBA has to offer.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra thinks that there will come a day where the jeers will turn back to cheers for James in Cleveland – but in a Heat uniform.
“Time heals a lot of things, Spoelstra said. “LeBron had many special years here. There will probably be a time in the future where he will be embraced and acknowledged for the great run that they had here.”
In his ninth season, the King still remains without a ring.
It’s a fact that he is well aware of and still gnaws at his basketball soul.
“No matter where my career ends up my goal is still the same and that is to win an NBA championship,” James said. “I’ve accomplished everything that you can as an individual. You name it I got it besides sixth man of the year or coach of the year.
“I’ve got all of the awards and that stuff doesn’t matter to me – the ultimate goal is to win a championship.
Should it happen, where would James like to do it?
“I want to do it in Miami,” James said. “That’s the team I’m with and hopefully I can finish my career here.
“If it’s in Cleveland than I want to win an NBA championship here so that’s my goal.”
He failed to deliver in seven years with the Cavaliers.
The Heat hope that he doesn’t repeat the feat in South Beach.