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Security beefed up as LeBron James returns home

By the CNN Wire Staff
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LeBron James returns to Cleveland
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: President Obama: "It's going to be brutal"
  • A local reporter says fans' anger could surface
  • LeBron James says the game will be "emotional"
  • Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has urged fans to be classy

(CNN) -- LeBron James is going home to Cleveland Thursday night wearing a Miami Heat jersey, and no less an authority than the basketball-loving president of the United States predicts a rough night.

"It's going to be brutal," Barack Obama told reporters Thursday, hours before tip-off.

Just to make sure the court is safe for King James, the Cleveland Cavaliers say they will beef up security at Quicken Loans Arena, NBA officials have said.

Mary Schmitt Boyer, Cavaliers beat writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, said local fans' anger could surface Thursday.

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"There is a good deal of anger. And I think despite many pleas from fans for sort of nonviolent protests, I think they are probably going to just let LeBron have it," Boyer said.

Former NBA great Kevin McHale agreed that James has more to fear from the fans than the Cavaliers themselves.

"This is their chance to express how they feel. This is the one chance for the fans to yell and scream and boo and get all that off their chest," he told CNN.

His former teammates will want to beat James, McHale said, but as a friendly rivalry, "like wanting to beat your brother."

James used to be the toast of Ohio but became public enemy No.1 this summer when he announced on a television special that he was leaving for South Beach to play with the Miami Heat.

The decision brought much criticism and sent some Cleveland fans to the streets to burn James' jersey.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert seemed to add fuel to fire when he released an emotional statement on the team's website the night James made the announcement.

Gilbert called James' decision a "cowardly betrayal" and a "shocking act of disloyalty," part of the statement said.

He then added, in all capital letters:"I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER 'KING' WINS ONE. You can take it to the bank."

Gilbert, who was fined by the NBA for that statement, has since softened his tune.

He recently urged Cavaliers fans to be classy when James arrives home Thursday, according to NBA.com.

James joined the Cavaliers straight out of high school and played forward for the team for seven seasons. He was a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player when he was with the Cavaliers but he never won the NBA championship.

He led the Cavaliers to the NBA finals in 2007, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs, but never reached the finals again, despite Cleveland management bringing in supporting stars such as Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison.

James said he will be dealing with his emotions when he returns home for the much-anticipated game.

"It's going to be very emotional for myself," James told CNN affiliate WSVN. "I got a lot of great memories in that city. I give a lot of thanks to that city, a lot of thanks to those fans for giving me the opportunity to not only showcase my talents but grow from a boy to a young man."

CNNRadio's Richard Benson contributed to this report.