Wednesday night's highly anticipated matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the visiting Los Angeles Lakers is expected to strike a different tone than the first time LeBron James returned to face the franchise that drafted him.
After James left the Cavaliers in 2010 to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat, he was criticized almost universally by fans north of South Beach. His decision to announce his offseason move on live television did not help matters.
Heat security guard Rob Brown remembers James' return to Cleveland on Dec. 2, 2010, and recalled the tense evening to ESPN's Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst.
"We brought four team security members and then we used Cleveland police officers," Brown said. "There were reports about us going on a scouting mission to set up security beforehand - that was all made up. We went with the regular team security and then asked Cleveland for assistance. What wasn't made up were the nine-volt batteries being thrown on the court. ... A member of the NBA's security team wanted to call the game because there was so much coming at us during the game and we were basically ducking behind the scorer's table just to not get hit.
"I remember saying, 'This is the most hate I've seen. Ever.' The signs and the looks on the fans' faces. We got there three hours before the game and it was packed. It was loaded. There was just so much anger in the air. So much passion. It was something else."
It's widely expected James' imminent return to Cleveland will be less vitriolic than the battery-charged frenzy of 2010 after the King brought a long-awaited title to the city.