Weeks after being traded and mere days after calling his new city a "real sports city," Kyrie Irving returned to the team and teammates he spurned in favor of the Boston Celtics. Opening night of the 2017-18 NBA season did not disappoint, pitting the former Cavs playoff hero against the franchise face who was reportedly Irving's main reason for wanting out: LeBron James.
With that as the setting, Tuesday night's lights focused harshly on the former NBA champion teammates, who are now the unquestioned leaders of arguably the two best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Here's a look at the main highlights:
In the hours leading up to Tuesday's season opener, Irving continued to play coy when reporters directly asked why he wanted out of Cleveland while emphasizing the matchup as just another fraction of the entire season.
"It's just one game," Irving said. "We all understand that, but look at what all this has created. For me, it comes with a lot of added incentive to go out there and really play the game that I love."
Roughly 45 minutes before tipoff, Irving took his first pregame shootaround reps at Quicken Loans Arena as a member of the visiting team.
When Irving's name was announced during starting lineup introduction, Cavs fans mostly booed their former Finals hero.
Minutes later, Irving and James made the briefest of contact during pre-tip handshakes and acknowledgements by barely tapping knuckles before the contest was underway.
Throughout the course of the game, Irving and James interacted very little, though both went out of their respective ways to comfort injured Celtic Gordon Hayward.
In the second quarter, James attempted a quick seal and post-up of Irving, but the play resulted in a foul before anything of note transpired. James got another attempt in the fourth quarter, blowing by Irving but missing a contested dunk at the rim.
Their final encounter wound up being the best, a climactic matchup that could have decided the game. With seconds remaining and Boston trailing by three, Irving wound up with the ball on the right side with James guarding him. The former "sidekick" offered a pump fake, then launched the potential game-tying 3-pointer. It fell short, after which the former teammates immediately embraced and did their old handshake routine before parting ways until they meet again.