CLEVELAND -- LeBron James strolled into Quicken Loans Arena at 5:35 p.m. ET Thursday night, dressed all in black.
The villain, dressed for the part.
He was all smiles about 2 1-2 hours before his first game in Cleveland since leaving the Cavs to join the Miami Heat in July.
Within minutes, the King was on his former court, putting up a dizzying array of jumpers and working up a sweat while listening to his pregame motivational music through black-and-red ear buds.
After one clockwise rotation around the court, James wiped sweat from his brow and shouted across the court to former teammate J.J. Hickson, whose pregame jumpers weren't falling with quite the regularity as LeBron's.
"Better shoot some ___ layups," James shouted, smiling widely. "Better shoot some ___ layups. Can't make a damn shot."
Hickson continued shooting and smiled, but didn't turn around.
When he was finished with his customary pregame shooting -- for the first time here as an opponent -- James slapped hands with Cavs assistant coach Chris Jent and embraced the man who was James' personal assistant of sorts on former head coach Mike Brown's staff. James also shared embraces with Hickson and Anthony Parker, but did not do his customary pregame media availability.
That break from routine was announced minutes after Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had finished saying that his goal for this extraordinarily hyped game was to "keep it normal."
There was nothing normal about this night.
Spoelstra talked about taking care of "our two brothers," meaning LeBron and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who joined James in bolting Cleveland for Miami but was expected to receive a warm reception from the sellout crowd of 20,562 -- in stark contrast to the venom directed at James.
"This is an extreme environment tonight, there's no way around it," Spoelstra said in the crowded hallway outside the visiting locker room -- where James would soon be suiting up for the first time in his eight-year career. "So we've got to stay in the moment."
The moment, finally, had arrived.