MIAMI – It's the question I've been getting a lot of late from Heat fans. How much is too much in openly rooting against LeBron James in Cleveland? It's a fair question.
First of all, I not only have no problem with Heat fans rooting against him and the Cavs to lose, but I would actually expect it from all fans. It's the reasons why which we may not all agree with.
To me, you root against LeBron because he plays for an opposing team, not because he left Miami. It's no different than rooting against Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah on the Bulls or John Wall and Paul Pierce on the Wizards. They're opposing players on teams the Heat will be battling this season for an Eastern Conference title. That's the bottom line.
Where I draw the line is when anyone uses the word "hate" to describe what they feel for LeBron. Sure, you can hate that he left Miami and hate how he handled his departure, but to say you hate him is a little too much. Did we already forget what he helped accomplish for the team and the city over the last four years? That stretch may be the best you'll ever get as a fan. It'll also likely the best anyone in the media will ever get.
Covering that circus was chaotic, but it was also a blast. Surreal is probably the best word I would use, but I would never complain about the ride.
Heat fans shouldn't either.
It stung to see LeBron leave, but he left with two rings and four conference titles. Not a bad parting gift for him or Heat fans.
Which brings me back to the original question: how much is too much? How much do Miami fans openly root against him? Fans got their first chance to do so Thursday night in LeBron's return to Cleveland. It was an awful opening night for James. He couldn't shoot and the Cavs lost to a terrible Knicks team.
Did you enjoy watching that? The answer better be yes. I doubt that will happen too much this season. Like his first season with the Heat, James will take a while to adapt to new teammates and build chemistry and comfort. But, make no mistake about it, it will come and the Cavaliers will be very good.
I think what'll show the real character of Heat fans will be LeBron's return to Miami on Christmas Day. I would expect and hope for fans to give him a standing ovation of cheers.
That's what made watching his return to Cleveland so bizarre to me. I had never covered a sporting event where I actually felt unsure about the safety and well-being of an athlete more than LeBron's return to Cleveland in a Heat uniform back in 2010.
I heard profanities I didn't even know existed and threats and insults toward him I couldn't even repeat. Yet, here he was being welcomed back as a hero.
I'm assuming Heat fans can handle themselves differently.
Just remember a simple way to deal with the LeBron situation: thank him for his amazing time in Miami and hope he never wins a title in Cleveland. There's nothing wrong with that.