The NBA loves putting on a big show for its opening night, but even more when it’s Christmas time, which usually brings feuds and rivalries together. The highlight of the 2014 edition will undoubtedly be when the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James travel to South Beach and play against his former team, the Miami Heat.
That’s how the NBA works, and feuds, rivalries and the potential for emotions running high, not great basketball, is what usually drives their scheduling decisions. The San Antonio Spurs will have their “ring night” on October 28, facing the Dallas Mavericks, probably the biggest rival they have at the moment. The Clippers and the Warriors, another growing rivalry in the Western conference, will also feature on Christmas. The Chicago Bulls playing the Los Angeles Lakers is simply about two big markets, but also Pau Gasol facing his former team.
But nothing will compare to what it’s going to be like when James plays in Miami for the first time. Unlike his first visit to Cleveland, there might not be so much animosity and hatred spewing down from the stands and the local media this time. We’ve hardly heard bad things coming from Heat players or the entire organization for that matter when it comes to James. There isn’t a sense of betrayal; not like four years ago.
And yet, it’s undoubtedly special. James will come in with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to play against the team, and most of his former teammates, he won two NBA championships with and reached two more NBA finals. It’s going to be a demonstration of his new big three against his former “partners in crime” and the whole scenario and situation makes for excellent ratings, no matter how good the teams will be at that point, although obviously, with more question marks about the Heat, it might help to have the Heat running strong at the top of the Eastern conference.
Will James be cheered or jeered? Probably a bit of both. Depends on how the media play it out during the days leading up to the game. It depends on comments from players and coaches leading up to the game. It depends on the team’s records. Right now it seems that things broke away cleanly without too much residual bad taste, but it might change in a few months from now.
While we all preach for love and friendship, it would probably be more fun to have James seen as a villain by Heat players and fans, making the game a lot more tense and with an explosive potential.