RIO DE JANEIRO: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers held off the Miami Heat 122-119 in overtime on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) in an emotional NBA pre-season clash that saw James face his former team for the first time.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James and Cleveland’s Brazilian forward Anderson Varejao dominated the headlines in the build-up to the exhibition in Rio de Janeiro.
But James struggled with his shot, missing six of his first seven attempts and finishing two-for-eight from the floor.
However, he contributed eight assists — many of them to Kevin Love, who was brought to Cleveland to provide support to James and whose 25 points and seven rebounds proved crucial.
James said it was a “special moment” to take the court against the team-mates he left behind just three months ago.
“I didn’t get that awkward feeling, but I did get a lot of memories coming back. It was definitely great to see them,” he said.
James, who won two NBA titles in four seasons in Miami and played in two other championship finals, opted to return this season to try to lead the Cavaliers to the crown he could never capture in his first stint with his home state team —where he began his NBA career in 2003.
His departure from Miami broke up the Heat’s vaunted “Big Three” of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.