MIAMI (AP) – For the first time since Jan. 25, 2010, LeBron James returns to Miami as an opponent on Christmas Day when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Heat. Here’s a look at perhaps the 10 most memorable moments of his times at AmericanAirlines Arena while donning the Heat uniform that he wore from 2010 through this past season:
1. THE FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP, June 21, 2012
”It’s about damn time.” That’s what James said on the awards stand that night as confetti fell from the ceiling, when he finally got to hold his first NBA championship trophy. Finally, he was a champion. He had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, and the Heat beat Oklahoma City 121-106 in the title-clincher.
2. THE SECOND CHAMPIONSHIP, June 20, 2013
Back-to-back titles were his when the Heat rallied to beat the San Antonio Spurs to end the 2013 NBA Finals, completing a wild comeback that saw Miami pull off a miracle in Game 6, then turn the game over to the MVP in the final moments of Game 7.
3. THE 61 POINTS, March 3, 2014
He wore a mask that night to protect a broken nose, and turned into some sort of superhero instead. James made 22 of 33 shots in a dazzling show from the floor, including his first eight 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 61 points in Miami’s 124-107 win over Charlotte.
4. THE BUZZER-BEATER, May 22, 2013
Down by one as time was running out in overtime of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, James took matters into his own hands. His layup as time expired gave Miami a 103-102 win over the rival Indiana Pacers, moving the Heat closer to what became a second straight title.
5. THE ARRIVAL, July 9, 2010
The infamous party that welcomed James and Chris Bosh to Miami had been planned weeks in advance, in anticipation of Dwyane Wade re-signing and the possibility of a marquee free agent joining him. But James stole the show with his oft-replayed ”not two, not three, not four …” championship hopes.
6. THE BLOCK, June 9, 2013
With the Heat up by 19 points in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against San Antonio, Spurs’ forward Tiago Splitter tried to give his team a spark by dunking the ball. James had other ideas. He met Splitter at the rim, his right arm overpowering the dunk try, and the Heat were on their way to a big win.
7. THE DUNK, Jan. 29, 2012
Poor John Lucas III. He’ll likely be forever known as the human being who got leaped over – literally – by James on the way to a dunk. Dwyane Wade threw the lob pass to James, who was cutting from the right corner toward the basket. Lucas was in his way, so James simply went over him and finished off the dunk.
8. THE DEFEAT, June 12, 2011
This was the game that changed everything for James, sending him into a summer of self-assessment and helping him become the player who would win the next two NBA Finals MVP awards. Dallas won the championship in 2011, beating the Heat on their home floor and ending a dismal first Miami postseason for James.
9. THE FINISH, May 11, 2011
For years, James’ playoff nemesis had been the Boston Celtics. With a 3-1 lead in the 2011 East semifinals, James had a chance to oust the Celtics and end their ”Big 3” era for good. Boston led 87-81 with 4:29 left before James took over, scoring the final 10 points of the game himself as Miami ended the series with a 16-0 run.
10. THE HUG, Jan. 25, 2013
This was straight out of Hollywood, except it was real. James’ foundation was sponsoring an in-game promotion where a fan would get a chance to shoot a half-court shot for $75,000 – and lo and behold, a man named Michael Drysch actually made the shot. So not only did he get paid, he got tackled by James in celebration.