LeBron James receives standing ovation from Cavaliers crowd at playoff game vs. Celtics

CLEVELAND — LeBron James, primary author of the only championship in Cavaliers’ history, was greeted by thunderous applause and a standing ovation during a timeout in the first quarter of Cleveland’s playoff game against the Boston Celtics on Monday night.

James, 39, attended the game with his wife, Savannah, and longtime agent and business partner Rich Paul, who still represents multiple players on the Cavs’ roster.

As is customary when any former Cleveland player from the franchise’s glory days of four consecutive finals from 2015-18 returns, James was treated to a highlight video and bone-rattling introduction. Fans, some of them perhaps unaware he was seated courtside, watched the video presentation during the timeout, and any cheers were drowned out by the sound from the jumbotron.

But when James was introduced, and shown seated in his jean jacket and backwards cap, well, Clevelanders went berserk.

Screaming. Applause. Towel waving.

James sipped his drink of choice, this night a nice white wine, from a disposable coffee cup, while speaking animatedly to Paul throughout the game. Maybe he was into it, or perhaps it was just trying to be heard over the booming music and shrieks of a delighted crowd during a close game.

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James, who was born about 40 miles south of Cleveland, in Akron, Ohio, and played 11 of his 21 NBA seasons as a Cavalier, was the MVP of the 2016 Finals in which Cleveland won in a dramatic, seven-game series. He left the organization for the second time as a free agent in the summer of 2018 and headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, who, for now, still have him under contract.

James has a $51.4 million player’s option with the Lakers for next season. He can opt out and become a free agent. Also, his son, Bronny James, a freshman at USC, declared for the NBA Draft, and it so happens the Cavs have the 20th pick.

Does any of this mean that either LeBron or Bronny is coming to Cleveland? No (the Lakers are expected to make him a huge contract offer and, if he wants them to, would draft his son), but James showing up courtside for a Cavs playoff game brings about such speculation.

When he was here for the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, he refused to rule out another return to the franchise when asked by The Athletic. Or, it just could have been LeBron and Savannah getting back to the Akron area for Mother’s Day, or a drop in at the public school in Akron he opened. Or all of the above.

Members of the Kardashian family, and actor Mark Wahlberg, a noted Celtics fan, were also expected to attend the game.

Required reading

(Photo: Lauren Leigh Bacho / NBAE via Getty Images)

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