"LeBron," the driver says, "he doesn't care. I think he doesn't care."
Already, he says, he has shuttled in a couple who had arrived from London for the game. He has been driving these roads for 18 years, seven of them when LeBron played here, the two-time MVP making Quicken Loans Arena perhaps the NBA's ultimate destination.
And then the driver pauses, leans back, and asks, "You think one day he might change his mind and come back to Cleveland?"
For seven years, they loved him.
Thursday night, they tried to hate him.
But anger only turned to added sorrow, after a 38-point performance by the King on Thursday night that brought back memories of what was and likely never will be again.
Most of all, they miss him.
Cleveland fans did not get their revenge.
LeBron's return to Cleveland
Winderman: Cavs fans tried to hate LeBron, but his 38 points only brought back memories of what was and likely never will be again.
LeBron James 2, Dan Gilbert 0.
It was an angry, ugly and ultimately a sad night at The Q.
It ended with one fan being arrested, a battery landing by the Heat bench, and Heat guard Eddie House looking for some hallway retribution against Cleveland guard Daniel Gibson after their fourth-quarter technical fouls.
The atmosphere was everything expected, and more, including a profane chant that greeted LeBron upon his entrance for pregame warmups.
A "Lyin' King" T-shirt shown on the big screen drew a particularly robust cheer, as did a sign that read "Merry Quit-ness."
A shirt with a Heat logo that featured the word "Hate" was confiscated, as was one that read "Like Father, Like Son."
The biggest pregame cheer was reserved for Gilbert, who sat next to former Browns (and University of Miami) star Bernie Kosar.
Fans were given white rally towels for the game that read, "Cavaliers. All for one. One for all."
Charles Barkley was cheered in person and even more on the video presentation that showed him saying, "Punk Move, 'Bron."
During a first-quarter Chris Bosh visit to the foul line, a chant of "Akron Hates You!" began. That was after a chant of "Yes, we hate you!"
There was the group lined up with individually lettered T-shirts that spelled out "B-E-T-R-A-Y-E-D." And, yes, it was duly shown on the overhead screen.
There were chants of "De-Lont-Te!". (We'll let you do the research.)
And over in Section 133, there were markers and poster-board to craft your own message. "Free signs" was the offer.
Offered up from that table were:
And on it went, from LeBron taunting and teasing the Cavaliers bench — much to the chagrin of Cleveland coach Byron Scott — to four fans being escorted to the exits, to many more having their T-shirts and signs confiscated and others leaving of their own volition.
Eventually? Silence, after James scored 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting in the third quarter.
He exited as he arrived — on his terms.
"It's nothing personal between myself and these fans. It won't be, ever," he said. "I'm moving on and I'm happy I'm in the position I am."
"They tried anything," he said of the taunts and chants. "There's no hurt feelings from these fans. I wish them the best."
They still hate him. But they don't hate the past, don't hate the previous seven years.
It ended with everyone seemingly exhausted by what went into the night, Jawad Williams the lone Cavalier to embrace LeBron at the finish. Teammates Dwyane Wade and Bosh appeared as worn as LeBron.
"I'm very, very exhausted right now," James said before heading to the bus that would take him to the plane that would land him in his adopted home, where his talents now reside.
They may try this again in March, when the Heat returns. But it won't be the same. And they know it.
LeBron peed on their parade.
And now, there is only one response left ...
At Harry Buffalo's, where you can find LeBron's visage on a urinal cover with his mouth open.
Y! Sports: For Roy Hibbert, a sense of ownership means knowing he should have fought to get in the game with two seconds remaining in overtime, when his absence allowed LeBron James to hit the winning lay-up.
LeBron James faces the Cleveland Cavaliers as a member of the Miami Heat for the first time.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
Reason for optimism after Game 1 loss?
PBT Extra: The Heat snuck past the Pacers in the final seconds of overtime in Game 1, and PBT’s Kurt Helin breaks down where the Pacers can go from here. Paul George had a monster game, and Helin believes the Pacers have a real chance at upsetting the top-seeded Heat.
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