Louis Riddick shares his view on why Tom Brady parted ways with Bill Belichick, the Patriots. (1:35).
It's being called The Return, and as Week 4 of NFL season nears, it's the game everyone is talking about. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady returns to Foxborough, Massachusetts to face his former team the New England Patriots (8 :20 p.m. ET, NBC. After winning six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots, Brady was awarded a record-breaking seventh title with the Buccaneers.
This is not the first time that an athlete whom generations of fans adore and whose identity was so closely tied to a city's culture has moved on and returned as a visitor. It is rare that an athlete who has been on top for many years reinvents and reenergizes his career in order to continue winning championships.
The spectacle of Brady's return to Gillette Stadium Sunday is enhanced by the fact that it occurs almost exactly 20 years ago, the date of his first NFL start and with him on the verge of another milestone. Brady has 80,291 yards passing and Brady only needs 68 to surpass Drew Brees' NFL record (80,358).
Brady spoke highly of New England, saying that he has great respect for and admiration for his time there. "I had twenty great years there. It was a great time in my life. It was a wonderful time in my life."
How did it feel when other famous athletes returned home to the homes they had made their careers? How did they manage to control their emotions? What did their fans think?
ESPN reporters Brian Windhorst and Greg Wyshynski take you inside some other notable return games in sports. -- Jenna Laine
The departure: James announced that he was moving to Miami Heat on July 8, 2010.
The return: December 2, 2010
Play 1:09 LeBron James's first visit to Cleveland since signing with Miami was intense. He led the Heat with 38 points during a win.
James was one of the most prominent free agent departures in American sport history. His public announcement is a source of infamy. The venom directed at James in Cleveland was largely attributed to the breakup. This was however a convenient excuse for James to spread hatred.
The feelings of Cavs fans were mixed. In seven years Cleveland had not been able to find a true star in their prime, and Miami placed two (Chris Bosh & Dwyane Wade) right next to James. It was also a mix of jealousy and betrayal. James performed poorly according to his standards in the 2010 playoff loss to Boston Celtics in Games 5-6, sometimes looking as if he was lost in fog. James was suffering from a mysterious right elbow injury -- imaging did not show any damage -- but some people accused him of abandoning his team knowing he would soon be leaving.
He was a relentless competitor but this was not his style. James struggled to cope with playoff pressure in that stage of his career. This was a problem that continued the next season with the Heat in the Finals. This could also have been a factor, but it was difficult to find patience in a time of intense emotions.
The Heat looked at Dec. 2, 2010 on the calendar as if it were a near root canal appointment. The league granted Miami a slight break by scheduling a Heat home game the night prior so that the team arrived at the hotel after 2 a.m. Extra security was placed and the players raced to their rooms.
So that James could be booed loudly by the crowd in warm-ups, the arena was almost full 30 minutes prior to tipoff. The Cavs' game operations fed this frenzy by showing James on the scoreboard multiple times and then showing Dan Gilbert, his owner, walk to his seat right before tipoff to loud cheers. James looked at the scoreboard and shrugged his shoulders. Gilbert had written a public letter in which he criticized James and made him the villain in the eyes of the fans. Moondog, the Cavs' mascot was wearing a mock-bulletproof vest.
Although security was present around the Heat bench's edge, it did not stop several battery-wielding men from crashing into the bench. Social media was used by fans to organize chants, which became personal and reverberating. Many signs of off-color were confiscated, but many others were not. James tried to talk to Mo Williams and Daniel Gibson, but they were unable to take him in the second half.
Williams stated, "It was almost like your ex-girlfriend came to your wedding."
James was brilliant. In what became a 118-90 Miami win, he scored 38 points. He broke the spirit of the crowd by scoring 24 points and dancing on the floor in the third quarter. The whole experience was a great motivator for the Heat. The Heat were only 11-8 at the start of the game, but they won nine straight after beating Cavs to get to a record 30-9. The Cavs were at 7-10 when they entered the game. They would lose 33 out of 34 the following night. -- Windhorst
Wayne Gretzky vs. Edmonton Oilers
The departure: Gretzky, defenseman Marty McSorley, and center Mike Krushelnyski were traded by Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings on Aug. 9, 1988 for center Jimmy Carson, wing Martin Gelinas and first-round draft picks of 1989, 1991, 1993, and $15 million.
The return: October 19, 1988
Wayne Gretzky received two assists during his 1988 return to Edmonton from the Los Angeles Kings. David E. Klutho/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
It's simply known as "The Trade" in Canada. It is referred to whenever there's a rumor that an NHL superstar might be available. "Hey, Edmonton Oilers can trade Wayne Gretzky
The Oilers sent the 27 year-old, eight time MVP to the Kings in an all-star blockbuster deal with seven players that included picks as well as cash. This payment was made by Bruce McNall, the Kings owner. Los Angeles was then free from other suitors like the Vancouver Canucks.
Local politicians requested that the Canadian government stop the trade. Fans were confused and devastated. They blamed Gretzky's wife Janet Jones for her efforts to lure him to Hollywood. Then they turned their anger at Peter Pocklington, the Oilers owner, for selling Gretzky to the Kings. Pocklington was set on fire outside Edmonton's arena after Gretzky claimed that Gretzky's emotional news conference featured 'alligator tears'.
Gretzky's Edmonton game as a King was his first. Los Angeles (42-0) was off to the best start in franchise history. Gretzky had 15 points.
Oilers loyal viewed the night as the farewell that they would never get to offer The Great One. They sang "Gretzky!" They chanted "Gretz-ky!" and gave him two standing ovations. Gretzky's owner was criticized by some. A fan dressed in full L.A. Kings regalia raised a sign reading "DOWN THE DRAIN WITHOUT Wayne"
Gretzky received two secondary assists, one shorthanded and one on the power-play. Grant Fuhr, a former teammate, stopped four of Gretzky's shots. After the first period, the Kings were trailing 3-1 and lost 8-6 to Edmonton.
Gretzky, an ESPN 30-for-30 host, recalled that the first time she had to play in Edmonton it was because she felt like an L.A. King. -- Wyshynski
The departure: Manchester United accepted a bid by Real Madrid for a record-breaking fee of 80 million euros for Ronaldo.
The return: March 5, 2013,
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal in a 2-1 win by Real Madrid against Manchester United. Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Since Cristiano Ronaldo's 2009 transfer to Real Madrid, Manchester United fans have adored him. He was a star at Old Trafford in 2003-2009, but his fame and talent were elevated with Real.
Ronaldo was at his best when he faced his former team in March 2013. The Champions League Round 16 match was a thrilling encounter. The United crowd was eager to see Ronaldo and wanted to show their affection for a player who had spent his last two years trying to force a move from Madrid.
Ronaldo regarded Sir Alex Ferguson as a father figure and wanted to give Ronaldo a special show. He instructed the stadium announcer not to follow tradition and to read out the visiting team first, leaving Ronaldo's name at the end.
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Ronaldo was urged by Old Trafford to "welcome back our magnificent seven," according to the announcer. The crowd erupted and gave him a standing ovation until the game started.
Ronaldo stated after the match, "It was an incredible night, a very emotional evening and what the fans did for me was huge." I will never forget that moment. Madrid's success in the next round is what makes me happy. But, I am a bit sad for Madrid because it is hard to forget about this place. The people were great to me and I was able to play here for six years."
Ferguson later admitted that while he wanted Ronaldo to feel loved by the United crowds, the ploy was also meant to distract him from the moment and lose his focus. In a 2-1 victory for Real, Ronaldo would score the decisive goals. This was a goal that he refused celebrate.
It was to be Ferguson’s last Champions League match, unbeknownst to anyone at the game, even Ronaldo. After 27 years of leading the team, he had decided privately that he would be retiring at the end.
United attempted and failed for eight years to bring Ronaldo back into Old Trafford. It finally achieved its goal in the summer 2021. He was 18 years old when he made his debut for the club and scored twice in a 4-1 victory against Newcastle. -- Ogden
The departure: On February 2, 2017, the deal that sent Delle Donne from the Washington Mystics also brought center Stefanie Dlson and Kahleah copper to Chicago along with No. 1, the Mystics' 2017 draft pick. 2.
The return: May 24, 2017.
Delle Donne soon fell in love with Chicago and named her dog "Wrigley". She also became a Cubs fan. She led the Chicago Sky to the 2014 WNBA finals, as well as three other playoff appearances. She is the only Sky player who has won the WNBA MVP award.
After four years living in Windy City, Delle Donne was ready to return home with the team that drafted No. In 2013, Delle Donne was drafted 2nd overall. She wanted to return to the East Coast. To be near her family in Delaware, she pushed for a trade with Washington. This was especially important for Lizzie, her sister who has cerebral palsy, is deaf, and blind. If the trade did not happen, Delle Donne was willing to sit out 2017.
Delle Donne was due to return to Chicago on May 24, 2017 as a Mystics member. She was met mostly with high-pitched singing. It was a 11:30 a.m. student day matinee. The Allstate Arena, the former home of the Sky, was full of kids who were excited to hear the songs and see themselves on the Jumbotron. It was far from hostile.
Elena Delle Donne scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds during her 2017 debut game in Chicago. Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
It almost felt like a different life, Delle Donne stated that she flew to the arena and it almost felt like it was. That day in her Sky career, Delle Donne said. It's strange how things change and then you move on. It can be a strange, haunting feeling to return to the place you call home after four years.
Delle Donne suggested that it might have been good fortune that her return fell on student-day.
She said, "The children will cheer for everything." "But I saw some great fans when I was here. They were so sweet, I gave them hugs."
The Mystics won 82 to67 with Delle Donne scoring 21 points and eight rebounds. Both teams were happy with the trade: Delle Donne won her second MVP award and her first WNBA title. She also spoke of Lizzie's proximity to her sister. "Having Lizzie so close by is so wonderful because, as many know, although I can't call or FaceTime her, I can't phone her." She'll be available to me a lot this summer.
Copper and Dolson are still playing for Chicago, who advanced to the WNBA semifinals. They will face Connecticut on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN 2. -- Voepel
Favre's departure: Favre was traded to the New York Jets by the Packers on Aug. 7, 2008. This was in exchange for a third-round draft pick in 2009. Favre signed with the Minnesota Vikings in August 2009, after a season in New York.
The return: November 1, 2009
In his 2009 return to Lambeau Field, Brett Favre threw four touchdown passes in the Vikings' win against Green Bay. AP Photo/Mike Roemer
Favre was traded to the New York Jets by the Green Bay Packers in August 2008. They did not want to have to face him.
The Packers refused to accept Favre's retirement that summer. They were ready for the Aaron Rodgers era. They knew Favre wanted to join the Vikings, and even went as far to accuse NFC North's rival of tampering. They had similar trade agreements with the Jets, and the Buccaneers when they reached a deal. They knew Favre preferred Tampa Bay so they sent Favre to New York.
After spending a year exiled with the Jets, he finally retired and was then able to return to the Vikings. He had to face his old team twice during the 2009 season. While the first was a bad experience for Packers fans, it was worse than the second in Minnesota. Favre returned to Lambeau Field less than a month later, and he won the Metrodome match against the Packers.
Favre's return as a Vikings player to Green Bay elicited a predictable reaction: A torrent of boos from the crowd of 71 213 -- the largest regular-season Lambeau game to that point. Favre was expecting a warm reception.
Favre declared, "A Packer fan cheers for the Packers first," after he had thrown four touchdowns in a 38-26 victory. Favre added, "I hope any person who stayed to the end said, "I hate that that joker plays on another team, but that he can still play."
Six years later, Favre was invited back to the Packers family to be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame. He also received his No. Favre stood in the middle of Lambeau Field, possibly playing to the crowd. He pointed towards the field's visitor's entrance and said, "I've also ran out of that tunnel." He then turned to the entrance of the home team and stated, "I'd rather go out from that tunnel right here." -- Demovsky
The departure was on March. Harper signed for $330 million with Philadelphia Phillies on March 2.
The return: April 2, 2019,
Play 0:52 Harper: The city of Philly is behind me every night. Bryce Harper looks back on his first game in Washington since signing with Phillies in offseason.
Harper, the most talked about prospect in baseball history, reached the majors in 2012 at the age of 19, winning Rookie of Year. He also helped the Nationals to their first division title in the playoffs since they moved to D.C. His seven-year tenure with Nationals was not always easy.
He was 22 years old when he won the unanimous MVP award for 2015. He hit.330, led the NL in home runs with 42, 118 runs and had a.460 OBP. His slugging percentage was.649 and he also led the NL's NL with a.649 slugging rate. If he hadn’t injured his knee while slipping on first base in August, he might have won another MVP Award for 2017.
There were injuries and a fight with Jonathan Papelbon, as well as the annual playoff disappointments, including the losses in the NLDS in 2012 (losses in the NLDS), 2014 (losses in 2016 and 2016) and 2017. The Nationals' 2018 season was his final with them. Harper was a disappointment as he struggled to play defense and only.249.
Harper was able to make it clear that he would test free agency. However, Harper was reportedly offered a 10-year contract worth $300 million by the Nationals in September, according to the Washington Post. Harper received the offer in an envelope during a rain delay. The Nationals tried to resign Harper, but it felt more like a public attempt to save face.
Bryce Harper was met with boos upon his return to D.C. for #MLBNShowcase. pic.twitter.com/bxYPngzhPI MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) April 2, 2019
Harper instead signed for the Phillies for $330million over 13 years. The Nationals hosted the Phillies in the fourth game. More than 35,000 people booed Harper's video tribute before the game. They then booed again during Harper's first at-bat, causing the game to be halted for over a minute.
Max Scherzer struck him out.
Harper said after the game, "I feel like it’s a little bit different coming back here. And getting booed." It's like going to another baseball park and confronting somebody who's lights up, electric like Max or going to New York, and getting booed. It's the exact same thing for me."
Harper doubled off Scherzer later and then, in the eighth inning facing Jeremy Hellickson he launched a 458-foot homer into the second deck in right center. Harper flipped his bat towards the Nationals dugout to celebrate the Phillies' 8-2 win.
Ryan Zimmerman, a long-time Nationals first baseman, stated that Bryance was "clearly polarizing" "I don’t mean that in any negative way. He's been that way since he was twelve years old, regardless of whether he likes or not.
However, the Nationals would win the World Series without Harper. Schoenfield