The History Behind Yankees' Expert Troll on LeBron James and the Indians

Lifelong Yankees fan LeBron James wore a New York hat to an Indians playoff game in 2007—and some people still haven't forgiven him for doing it.

LeBron James helps rally Indians fans.

Image via Getty/Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Contributor

LeBron James helps rally Indians fans.

On Thursday night, the Yankees will travel to Cleveland to take on the Indians in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. To get fans even more fired up for the game than they already were, the Yankees took to Twitter on Thursday morning to troll the Indians—and their fans—with a photo from almost exactly 10 years ago today. The photo features LeBron James attending Game 1 of the ALDS between the Yankees and Indians back on October 4, 2007, and it’s a particularly memorable photo because it features LeBron—who is probably (er, definitely?) the most important athlete to ever suit up for a professional sports team in Cleveland—proudly flaunting the Yankees hat that he had on his head that night.

It's the same photo the Yankees used back in December 2014 to wish "one of the world's biggest #Yankees fans" a happy birthday.

And Cleveland fans obviously haven’t taken too kindly to this not-so-subtle reminder about where LeBron’s loyalties lie when it comes to his favorite baseball team.

In response to the Yankees’ tweet, many Indians fans have been quick to point out that LeBron drove the Indians’ bandwagon during their historic run to the World Series last season, injecting life into Progressive Field on a nightly basis and ultimately delivering the perfect concession speech on behalf of the team when they came up short against the Cubs. Many others have also given LeBron a pass for what he did when he wore a Yankees hat to an Indians’ playoff game back when he was just 22.

He was young and naive, TONY.

Now he knows better. 🤗

— Mollis (for now) (@BurdsIVue) October 5, 2017

But the troll move from the Yankees was so effective because it’s clear that, while some Indians fans have forgiven LeBron for rooting against his hometown MLB team 10 years ago, there are also plenty of them who can still feel the sting that came along with seeing the star of the Cavaliers openly cheering against the Indians during a playoff game that took place in Cleveland. It's a sting that hasn't quite disappeared yet.

I'm still mad at LeBron for that Indians playoff game he showed up at in a Yankees hat. I guess he did mature in Miami

— Hadyn Place (@PlaceHadyn) October 18, 2016

And it's been like this for years now. Back in 2007, Twitter, Facebook, and all of the other social media sites that are populated by crazy sports fans these days either weren’t around yet or weren’t as big as they are today. Many of the sports-related message boards that existed 10 years ago have also either been removed from the internet completely or swept into the far corners of the World Wide Web, never to be seen again. But there are still plenty of articles that ran on Oct. 5, 2007 out there detailing just how upset many Indians fans were to see LeBron showing off his Yankees hat during Game 1 of the ALDS.

"The guy is the face of Cleveland sports and he’s not even rooting for a team that’s 100 feet from the building he plays in," Indians fan Adam Burke told ESPN, before adding that he was upset to see LeBron steal all the headlines despite the Indians winning Game 1 by a score of 12-3. "That’s the sad thing. We dominate every aspect of the game, but LeBron’s dominating the airwaves. Maybe he wants it that way."

"I am done with LeBron after seeing him rooting for the Yankees and wearing their cap at the Indians game," another fan said in a piece published by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "That is the most tasteless, classless thing I have ever seen by a sports celebrity."

And one fan even suggested that LeBron deserved to be dealt to a different NBA team for doing what he did. He urged him to keep his sports allegiances private if he wasn't going to root for the hometown team. "He should be traded for that," Joe Dickinson told "Cheer in secret."

Indians fans angry about LeBron James' Yankees hat.

The backlash against LeBron in 2007 was so strong that even some Yankees fans were upset with him for wearing their hat to an Indians game. There were, no doubt, plenty of Yankees fans who loved seeing LeBron being disloyal to Cleveland, but there were also those who saw where the Indians fans were coming from when they criticized LeBron.

"I can't understand it," Yankees fan Rob Fath said to "It's really pretty low of LeBron, to be honest. Why would he do that to his city?"

But what made the situation even worse for Indians fans—and what makes the photo of LeBron holding up his Yankees hat painless to this day for some of them—is that LeBron didn't come out and apologize for wearing a Yankees hat to a playoff game in Cleveland. He actually did the opposite of that. In an interview with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer after Game 1 of the 2007 ALDS, LeBron told Cleveland fans they would just have to find a way to "deal with" him rooting for a team other than the Indians.

"I know a lot of people might not like hearing me say that," LeBron said, "but I think everyone knows I've been a Yankee fan my whole life. They have to deal with it."

And LeBron has, for the most part, continued to force Indians fans to "deal with" his love for the Yankees over the course of his NBA career. As documented by Twitter user @jonastheprince on Thursday, LeBron has worn quite a few different Yankees hats over the years, despite the stir he caused in 2007.

LeBron wearing a Yankee hat (A thread) #yankees

— Jonas (@jonastheprince) October 5, 2017

He has also received praise from some Yankees players for sticking to his guns and not turning his back on his favorite team because of the pressure he received from Cleveland fans. Shortly after meeting LeBron in March 2013, then-Yankees second basement Robinson Cano thanked LeBron for staying loyal to the Bronx Bombers.

"All you guys know he's a Yankees fans," Cano said, according to the New York Post. "When he was in Cleveland, he wore the hat and he got booed. That means a lot to us. He was the man in Cleveland and wore a Yankee hat."

And despite his recent ties to the Indians and all that he did for them during their World Series run in 2016, LeBron has refused to distance himself from the Yankees completely. He let the New York Post know, in no uncertain terms, that he still bleeds navy blue and gray, even though he'll cheer for the Indians when they are winning.

"I'm a supporter of winners," LeBron said last year. "I needed inspiration to get out of the situation I was in [when I was younger]. I loved the Bulls, Cowboys, and I loved the Yankees. Those are winning franchises. I liked them because they gave me hope of being a winner. That's part of the reason I loved those teams but I definitely support what the Indians are doing right now."

So where does that leave LeBron today? It's hard to say. He has continued to show support for the Indians this season, most recently releasing a video to give them props for the 22-game winning streak they went on.

“The Cleveland WINdians™” — @KingJames sends his congrats to the @Indians for their historical win streak.

— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) September 13, 2017

He is also expected to be in the house at Progressive Field on Thursday night for Game 1 of the ALDS.

LeBron and company are indeed going to the Indians game tomorrow night. He's explaining to Jeff Green now how they get in

— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) October 4, 2017

But will he be wearing a Yankees hat or an Indians hat when he arrives? That is the question.

“Hey, Lebron James- who are you rooting for in the ALDS- the Indians or the Yankees?”

— McNeil (@Reflog_18) October 4, 2017

Indians fans are hoping to get a different answer than the one they got 10 years ago.

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