Shaquille O'Neal watched all last season as LeBron James tossed powder in the air to the roar of a sellout crowd inside Quicken Loans Arena. Now O'Neal wants to see if James can do it again.
"I'm anxious to see him do the powder (expletive),'' O'Neal said. "We have bets he won't do it."
As the Cavaliers begin bracing for James' return to the Q on Thursday, the little subplots such as the powder toss — James' longstanding pregame ritual prior to both home and road games — are drawing great interest.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers struggled finding sports comparisons to James' return to Cleveland. Johnny Damon's return to Boston as a member of the New York Yankees, Rivers said, and O'Neal's own return to Orlando as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
But O'Neal said James' return is a far bigger deal than either of his big returns.
"My situation in Orlando was a six, my situation in LA was a seven,'' O'Neal said. "This is like a 12.''
Of all the coaches around the league, Rivers can perhaps provide the best perspective of James' return. He's a former player who knows quite a bit about Cleveland, given the Celtics' memorable battles with the Cavs over the recent years.
Rivers is quick to point out James did nothing wrong by leaving, but he understands the fans' anger.
"He did everything legal. He didn't do anything wrong. He made a decision,'' Rivers said. "But he's from here, too. Over everything else, that's what made it more difficult for everyone here. He's a kid that grew up here and left. People try to blame it on `The Decision.' It wouldn't have mattered, in my opinion. If he left, people were going to have hard feelings."