Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to ignore the impact LeBron James has had on Miami. During his four seasons on South Beach, the Heat enjoyed unprecedented levels of success, winning two NBA championships and making four trips to the NBA finals.
Since taking his talents back to Cleveland, LeBron hasn’t yet returned to Miami for a regular-season game against his old team. That all changes on December 25, when “King James” comes back to American Airlines Arena for a 5 p.m. matchup that carries great significance for Heat die-hards and casual observers alike.
Three Things to Watch For When LeBron Plays Miami on Christmas Day
- Will the Heat Triumph Over Their Former Teammate?
The biggest question of all is whether the Heat will be able to top the Cavs and win the game. LeBron’s return aside, it’s an important mid-season game for both teams. Cleveland has picked up its level of play after a very disappointing start to the season, while Miami has maintained its so-so performances throughout the season so far. With LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Cavs are the more talented team, without a doubt. But the Heat will have home court advantage at American Airlines Arena — and the home fans will be as loud as ever when LeBron visits on Christmas.
- How Will LeBron Handle the Pressure?
LeBron hasn’t had the easiest of seasons so far. His field goal shooting percentages have dropped across the board, he’s grabbing fewer rebounds, dishing fewer assists and committing more turnovers than he has in the past, and his team has underachieved compared to their lofty expectations. In his return to Miami, all of these minor failings will be magnified. He’ll face a tough, physical defender in the Heat’s new small forward Luol Deng and a rowdy crowd. LeBron could drop 40 points or commit 10 turnovers — no matter what happens, we’ll be entertained.
- Will Miami Fans Welcome Their Former Hero With Open Arms?
When LeBron announced his decision to return to Cleveland this past summer, the reaction in Miami was swift and visceral, even if many had seen the move coming for months. Now that Heat fans have had a bit of time to reflect on LeBron’s departure, they might be more mellow — or even friendly — toward LeBron. Or not. We’ll find out on Christmas Day!
LeBron James’ return to Miami happens at 5 p.m. on December 25 at American Airlines Arena. The game will be televised nationally on ABC and available for online streaming via WatchESPN.com.
If you’re lucky enough to be attending in person, consider Winter Haven as a convenient hotel near American Airlines Arena.