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Back in Miami, James still won’t thank Heat fans

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MIAMI — Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James still loves his former Heat teammates, but he declined the opportunity to thank the Miami fans who cheered for him during four consecutive runs to the NBA Finals.

Those were among the highlights from a six-minute interview James granted the media just before his first game back against the Heat since he left the franchise as a free agent last summer.

Some Heat fans resent the fact that James never thanked them in his Sports Illustrated story in which he announced his decision to return to Ohio.

On Thursday, James was given another chance to show his gratitude … but he carefully — and some would say stubbornly — refused.

“I gave everything and more to this city while I was here,” James said. “I never disrespected this city or the franchise or my teammates. Everything was professional. I gave it my all. It’s all I can do.”

Heat fans, unaware of those comments, gave James mostly cheers when he was quickly announced first as part of the Cavaliers’ starting lineup.

Then, during a timeout in the first quarter, a video was played of James and the Heat winning two NBA titles in the past four years.

When the video tribute was over, the fans rose to give James a standing ovation.

“This is a special game,” Cleveland coach David Blatt said, speaking an hour before tip-off. “I’m sure it means something (special to James).”

Before the game, James was asked if he spoken with Heat president Pat Riley since the events of last summer.

“No,” James said, “but if the opportunity presents itself, I don’t mind. But I don’t know what (Riley’s) mindset is.”

James has no regrets.

“I can’t live in the past,” he said. “I’ve got to live in the future or in the present moment. I don’t know what you guys want from me. I go out and play the game of basketball no matter what uniform I’m in and no matter what city I’m in.

“I’ll give one huge press conference when I’m done with this thing. But for now, try to appreciate what I do on the floor.”

James was then asked if he thinks the Heat will one day retire his jersey.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “That’s an organization thing. If they feel I did enough to put my jersey in the rafters, I’ll be here when they put it up. If not, I’ll be home.”

James said the main thing he wanted to do in Miami was get together with Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who remains his good friend.

The two did indeed spend time socially before the game, and James said his regard for Wade and the rest of the Heat players has not changed.

But James seemed to have a bitter feeling for the media — and by extension, the fans.

“We could care less what anybody else thought about us,” James said of the bond he shared with the Heat players during their four-year run. “There’s going to be a new write-up tomorrow in the newspaper. And then there’s going to be another one the next day that’s different from the day before.

“You have to live in the moment. What me and my teammates did here will last forever — you can never take it out of the books.”

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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