Next stop on the LeBron James “Don’t You Wish You Had Me On Your Team, Suckas!” Tour … Broadway.
As James approached his free agency this summer, New York City thought it had a lock on him. For the past two years, the New York Knicks had been shedding payroll and offering painful basketball to their fans, for the sole purpose of clearing salary cap space to sign the best all-around player on the planet. You could own this town, New York pitched LeBron, while hanging with your buddy Jay-Z, and hitting all the hot clubs. Who could pass that up?
But it turns out that the Knicks weren’t all that serious a contender in the LeBron summer sweepstakes. Tall buildings and media adoration can be nice, but New York couldn’t offer two other enticing elements: warm weather in December, and Dwayne Wade. So when the Miami Heat visited New York for the first time with James in a Heat uniform, the New York fans reacted like, well, New York fans. They booed him and cursed him and wore “LeBum” t-shirts. But all those Big Apple sophisticates should have learned something from LeBron’s homecoming in Cleveland, where he scored 38 points in three quarters while toying with his former team and town. Heckle away, and you will pay.
(More from NewsFeed: See Cleveland’s reaction to LeBron’s visit.)
James crushed the Knicks, scoring 32 points on 14-24 shooting. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and added 10 assists as Miami topped New York, 113-91, for its 11th straight win. It was James’ second triple-double of the season. From the opening tip, James was possessed. The Friday night crowd was amped, as the Knicks are performing better than they have in a decade. The team is 16-11, thanks in large part to MVP-caliber play of forward Amare Stoudemire, the free agent the Knicks signed instead of James. Less than a minute into the game, James sank a three-pointer, and hit another long jumper moments later. After each shot went in, James looked toward the sideline, and gave the Madison Square Garden crowd the “hush up” look. Though he did not go as far to talk trash with Spike Lee, who was sitting in his customary front row seat.
James scored 14 points in the first quarter. At one point, he dribbled while falling to the floor, like one of the Harlem Globetrotters messing with the hapless Washington Generals, before tossing a gorgeous behind the back pass to a wide-open teammate under the basket, who dunked it. He rested most of the second quarter, which allowed the Knicks to temporarily make a game of it; they tied the score, 57-57, going into halftime. But James did manage to throw down a vicious alley-oop; on a fast-break, James leapt to the roof of Madison Square Garden, grabbed the ball high in the air and angrily hurled it through the basket.
(More on TIME.com: See a video of LeBron “Making the Shot.”)
The third quarter was all his. In the next boo-bird game – James also spurned Chicago, so listen up, Bulls fans – the opposition should try to trip a power chord in the arena at halftime, so that the second stanza doesn’t start. He scored 24 points against the Cavs; against New York, he scored 14 ridiculous points in the third, hitting several long shots with defenders in his face. And like in the Cleveland game, LeBron took one shot where he was clearly just trying to top himself, as if he were playing a personal game of HORSE. He dribbled out to the left wing for no good reason, taking poor New York Knicks forward Wilson Chandler with him, and heaved an impossible fadeaway. Of course, he nailed it. There was nothing Chandler could do.
“I’m glad I’m playing with him,” said Miami forward Chris Bosh, of James, afterwards. The New York fans serenaded Bosh, who has become the whipping boy of Miami’s Big Three, with chants: “Over-rated! Over-rated!” Not on this night, however: Bosh scored 26 points on 11-19 shooting. “He was shooting the ball so well, you didn’t even think about the other stats.”
(More on TIME.com: See LeBron’s controversial decision to join the Miami Heat.)
Miami is starting to mesh, and has now strung together one of those 11-game winning streaks fans were expecting all along (actually, many anticipated an 82-game streak for the new look Heat). “Boos are ok,” James afterwards. “I understand. It’s something I’ve gotten over my career on the road. I’ve had to adjust to it. The fans here are great. They’re very passionate and want their team to win and if you’re not on their team, you suck.”
After the final buzzer, a few New York fans couldn’t help hurling a few more obscenities James’ way. “I know,” he said while walking to the locker room, having wrapped up another astonishing performance on his “You Wish You Had Me” tour. “I know.”