CLEVELAND — LeBron James has traded teams this October.
The Cavaliers superstar, who once wore a New York Yankees cap to a playoff game Cleveland, is swinging hard for the Indians.
James has been sending positive messages on social media toward the club, which hosts the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series starting Thursday night. James can’t make the opener because his wife, Savannah, has a commitment, but he plans to be at Progressive Field on Friday for Game 2.
James posted a message to the Indians on Instagram, writing: “Light it up tonight, boys!! Tribe has us feeling some type of way in October.”
The three-time champion, who helped end Cleveland’s 52-year pro sports title drought in June, grew up rooting for the Yankees — and the Dallas Cowboys. He received heavy criticism in 2007 from Cleveland fans for wearing the Bronx Bombers cap to Game 1 of the ALDS that year. The Indians routed the Yankees 12-3 and won that series in four games.
The 31-year-old has shifted his allegiance to the Indians and he’s not a bandwagon jumper, either. He attended their game on Aug. 20, when the Indians rallied and won on a game-ending, inside-the-park homer.
“That was unbelievable,” James recently told The Associated Press. “The atmosphere that night was incredible. Those guys are playing great.”
When the Cavs won their title, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Golden State Warriors, the Indians had just begun a winning streak that would last 14 games. The Indians acknowledged feeding off the energy created by James and his teammates.
“It gave positive vibes around the stadium and gave positive vibes to the fans,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “Everyone was in a better mood. The sun was shining. There was no longer that dark cloud over Cleveland. LeBron didn’t throw any shutouts for us or hit any home runs, but at the same time, the Cavs winning it all took that pressure away of bringing home the first title.”
Manager Terry Francona has season tickets to the Cavs, whose Quicken Loans Arena is right near the Indians’ ballpark. He attended several playoff games and has become a favorite of Cavs free-agent guard J.R. Smith, who has been showing up at Indians games while his agent tries to get him re-signed.
Francona managed the Red Sox to two World Series titles with the first in 2004, ending Boston’s 86-year title drought. For him, one of the keys to success is to focus on the present and not worry about the past.
“We can’t play for — I was telling the group a couple weeks ago — it’s not my fault my dad didn’t win,” Francona said of his father, Tito, who played six seasons in Cleveland’s outfield. “This is hard enough to win when you’re playing good teams. But to go back 50, 60, 70 years, it’s not fair to anybody.
“We’re trying to stay in the moment because that’s the best way to go about doing good things.”