Miami fans should set aside any differences they have with LeBron James and welcome him with the Christmas spirit on Thursday, Heat guard Dwyane Wade told ESPN.com Monday.
Wade anticipates fans will react with a wide range of emotions when the four-time NBA MVP makes his initial return to Miami since leaving the Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers this past offseason.
"It's going to be a mixture," Wade said of how he anticipates fans will respond to James. "How I think he should be received is a little bit different. The man helped take us to places we've only been once before he got here. So I think he should be received very well for that at the start of the game. And then, when the game [starts], then do what you've got to do."
Wade also characterized his personal relationship with James, which was believed to be strained following the team's loss to San Antonio in the 2014 NBA Finals, as stronger than ever.
"At the end of the day, this is a sport. And I would personally never let a sport come between the relationships I develop," Wade said of James. "That's just not the person I am. So LeBron's decision to go home didn't affect our relationship at [any] point. We might even talk more now than we did the first time when he wasn't my teammate. It's just because we're used to leaning on each other a little bit."
Miami will show a video tribute to James before the game. No team in the past 30 seasons had made it to the NBA finals four consecutive years until a James-led Heat team did so from the 2010-11 season to the 2013-14 season.
That success, however, came with costs. Miami players termed the four-year period a grind, and attested to the experience not being very fun, according to the ESPN report. Wade believed James wanted to switch teams at some point this past summer, the report said.
Less than two seasons removed from winning the league title, the Heat (13-15) have taken a step back without James. Roughly one-third of the way through the NBA season, Miami .
Cleveland (16-10) sits in second place in the Eastern Conference Central Division, one game back of the Chicago Bulls.
- Will Green