LeBron James says that Kyrie Irving will be "fine" when he is received as a visiting player in Cleveland for the first time Tuesday when the Cavaliers host the Boston Celtics, and does not draw any parallel to when he returned to Cleveland for the first time as a member of the Miami Heat.
"Everybody's good. Everybody's good," James told The Jump's Rachel Nichols as part of a joint sit-down interview with Dwyane Wade that aired during Monday Night Football on ESPN. "KD [Kevin Durant] last year in Oklahoma City, Paul George going to go back to Indiana, you know, D-Wade's going to go to Chicago, Kyrie's coming back to Cleveland. No [it will not compare]."
While reunions involving major NBA stars and their former teams might have become commonplace, there was nothing common about James' first game back in Cleveland with Miami.
It was nearly seven years ago that James and Wade went to Quicken Loans Arena 20 games into the Heat's 2010-11 season. The Cavs had to arrange for dozens of extra police officers to work the game -- both in uniform and undercover -- in anticipation of a hostile crowd.
"Dec. 2," James said. "I will never forget that date."
James was returning after leaving for Miami as a free agent following three straight playoff appearances that fell short of the Cavs' 2007 NBA Finals berth, announcing his intentions on a live-television special aired on ESPN, titled "The Decision." Irving will return after requesting a trade away from a team that made it to three straight Finals and captured the championship in 2016, with two years remaining on his contract.
"They will be fine," James said of Irving and the Celtics. "People were throwing batteries at us."
The atmosphere was so charged that the person playing the Cavs' mascot, Moondog, wore a bulletproof vest over his costume when he took the floor for the national anthem, according to "The Blueprint: LeBron James, Cleveland's Deliverance, and the Making of the Modern NBA," by Jason Lloyd.
"I've never seen nothing like that in my life," Wade added.
The Heat routed the Cavs 118-90, with James scoring 24 of his game-high 38 points in the third quarter to break the game open.
On Tuesday, the Cavs plan to show a tribute video for Irving at some point during the game as a "thank you" for his six years with the team, a source told ESPN. There was no video for James on Dec. 2, 2010, needless to say.
James tweeted his own excitement for the Cavs' opener.
James had nothing bad to say about Irving, other than using a choice noun when referring to the four-time All-Star.
"At the end of the day, the kid did what he wanted to do," James said. "That was his destiny. Like I said, you know, the three years that we had together, unbelievable three years, and, you know, I wish we could have continued that, but it didn't work itself out. So, now my energy is to the guys that's, you know, in The Land."
Nichols then challenged the 32-year-old James on his "kid" label for the 25-year-old Irving.
"Oh, the kid? That's the kid," he said. "I used to be the kid."