For now, he's a public enemy in New York, greeted with unpleasant chants by soulless fans at the Garden. That was, the King, who arrived to the world's most famous venue on Friday night and duplicated a compelling spectacle on a night the crowd ridiculed and insulted LeBron James badly.
In the stands, boorish and blatant Knicks' fans tried their hardest to increasingly raise misery towards the most hated ballplayer in the game. It's too often, now considered a villain of the Madison Square Garden when months ago James was lustily cheered, that he's taunted and unwelcome.
Think of his one-hour reality TV show, a preposterous extravaganza that hijacked our consciousness last July. The discrepancy came the moment he announced his "Decision" on airwaves, absorbing the world's attention for a callous and narcissistic mind to create speculation, to scare jittery fans and to keep his potential landing spots hostage, until he finally said he was taking his talents to South Beach.
It's one thing for a slew of hate to portray James as the most evil ballplayer, although he's an economic boon and owns the spotlight in any town whether or not he's abused or saluted. Before, it felt like a recruiting trip, wearing his Yankees cap at the airport but a Cavs uniform on the brightest stage on Broadway every time he arrived to New York as a visitor.
The hostility, which attracted the enthralling circus in a town doubtlessly used to stage shows, fueled James' mind to perform as an aggressor and play with energy in front of celebrities and an energetic sellout crowd on a night the fans raucously shouted at James. When he walked onto his playground at the Garden and anxiously put on another entertaining display on his inhospitable court under the glowing lights of New York's humongous palace, he was identified as a jilter and traitor after he was supposed to contribute in a rebuilding stage with the Knicks.
He was supposed to join the Knicks and revive a lifeless franchise by his high-flying dunks as a global superstar in the big city. The Garden used to revere James with his spectacular performances that New Yorkers flirted with the magnetic superstar, amazingly wooing him to play for the Knicks when he became available to the market.
But as you probably know, the absurdity of his over-the-top free-agency announcement elevated the animosity across our nation. On the day he became a free-agent, James followed his heart and mind, telling the world that he opted to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form the most attractive trio of all-time. He never desired to play for the Knicks, but was fascinated with the city and has always delivered his epic performances to put on a breathtaking show in front of a frenzied crowd.
It was his first appearance in New York since ignoring and humiliating the Knicks last summer of which he was jeered loudly every time he touched the ball. While the churlish New Yorkers unpleasantly booed James on his every touch, he delivered 32 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, settling for his second triple-double of the season.
"This is a great building. Certain buildings in this league that you just thrive on and you're excited about, and this being the Mecca of basketball as a kid you always envision not only playing in the NBA but also having a chance to play in Madison Square Garden," James said after the Heat destroyed the Knicks in a 113-91 blowout.
If nothing else, to silence the growing displeasure of raging fans that began once he abruptly departed Cleveland, he responded with an athletic, dazzling masterpiece, shifting the emotions in a building which suddenly dropped silent and no longer jeered. As it turns out, he punctuated an unstoppable exhibit to get the last laugh of a watchful event after he dashed his way in the lanes, buried step-back three-pointers and provided behind-the-back passes, driving in traffic as a distributor to hand it off to his teammates.
"It was a fun night, seriously," James said. "The fans here are great. We all know the fans here are very passionate and they want their team to win. And if you're not on their team, then you suck. And we all know that."
There were times, such as the late '90s that Reggie Miller was nastily taunted or received death threats for entering the Garden, reminding us of the heartless torture in one of the most electrifying buildings in the league. The ridiculous headline this week from a creative tabloid, featured on front of the New York Post read "LeCHICKEN," a day before he visited the Knicks for another remarkable date.
For now, he is wary of the uncontrolled New York media and vindictive fans, neither of whom worships James after he turned down the Knicks in favor of the Heat, considering that he could have allied with Amar'e Stoudemire, who has validated the relevancy of the compelling Knicks. Spike Lee jumped around at the party, but watched the Knicks fall to a lustful James. Drake appeared, too, but saw the Knicks being smothered.
When the Miami players were introduced, the crowd stood fiercely and belittled James that boosted his level of capabilities, uplifting his mastery to thrive on the derision for the unrealistic transition to South Beach. The prodigious talent of a star transformed the Heat, and suddenly, he is playing with heart and vigor, doing whatever to silent critics. But more importantly, he's on pursuit of a championship and has been the essential piece to a well-equipped team, comprised of prodigy and top-notch stars.
Better yet, he's not just trying to silence the public or ripen into the greatest ballplayer ever, but he's aiming to establish as a global businessman, once his career comes to a terminal. After all, he's already investing roughly to improve his product and has been an attraction for consumers, willing to purchase his products and tolerate his giddy Nike ads. By the end of his captivating performance, he still proved that he's the most exciting player to watch, especially if he's playing in the Garden, where he has engraved a remarkable legacy and replicated Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
"LeBron was really dialed in," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "He made some possession-saving plays on one end and really carried us on the other. When he's making that mid-range jumper it really opens up everything."
Every time he visits New York, he plays the role of facilitator as a way to impress the crowd, I guess, putting on an intense showpiece in front of a sellout crowd, intrigued by his beautiful play as the Garden turn nuts like it did in the late '90's. And now it looks as if the Knicks-Heat rivalry is being renewed, one that will live on for the ages if LeBron and Amar'e exists.
Like always, he channeled Jordan and Bryant at the Garden, a place that muted by the third-quarter as James led a 27-7 Miami run. For all the talk swirling around the Heat's softness, as to which they were soft and passive defensively at one point, Miami assertively double-and-triple teamed Stoudemire, causing him to force ill-advised shots and make awful passes.
By then, he was held to 24 points on 11-for-28 shooting, snapping his franchise record of nine-straight 30-point games. However, if James played for the Knicks he'd clearly be considered the iconic celebrity of New York, maybe even more famous than Derek Jeter. Had he joined the Knicks, he'd be idolized for amending the town's woes and generating millions in one of the most active cities in America. But out of his four suitors, he rejected New York and Chicago, even his native town to play for the Heat. At the beginning, it seemed this marriage wasn't possible of functioning or creating a nucleus that builds upon myriads of unstoppable, forceful basketball.
At the very least, he tried to fire his coach, requesting discipline and mental toughness, but Hall of Famer Pat Riley stayed with Spoelstra. So fittingly, James is not only a marketing mastermind, but a mellowed superstar and has brought his unified teammates together with his style of sharing the ball for involving his co-stars such as Bosh and Wade.
Mostly, though, James hadn't found his rhythm to flourish within a trio of compatible superstars and overwhelmed New York with his outstanding show, albeit he's one of the hated athletes, unless he continuously resides in Miami. As life foiled for the Heat, on a pursuit to attainment, they escaped the long-suffering droughts and contemptible meltdowns.
Although he elicited plenty of hate, James puts on a dramatic scene at the Garden.