When LeBron James and the Heat played the Knicks a week and a half ago, the Madison Square Garden crowd booed the reigning MVP mercilessly. Some fans felt jilted following “The Decision,” others have always hated the guy’s guts, but everybody agreed that James was a man worthy of derision. His response? A 32-point triple-double, 14 of 23 shooting, and a blowout victory. As James grows into his antihero status, it should come as no surprise that he thrives in the presence of animosity. Like the classic Shakespearean villain, the monsters in Monsters Inc., or the African dung beetle, LeBron James feeds off the filth and horror spewed forth by others. He kind of likes it, actually.
The Knicks and Heat square off in Miami this evening, and as is always the case in Florida, there will likely be plenty of Knick fans (and/or grandparents of Knick fans) in attendance. Marc Berman reports that James eagerly awaits some boos.
“It would be good if we get a lot of Knick fans in the building,” James said after yesterday’s practice. “Then we might hear a few boos. I know I might. I would like it. Maybe I’ll give Knicks fans some tickets.”
Pure. Evil. Meanwhile, the Knicks themselves will need to make an appearance if they wish to vanquish the 23–9 Heat. The last time the teams met, LeBron’s outside shooting was pretty much impossible to defend, but the Knicks also struggled to contain role players like Carlos Arroyo. Ultimately, though, it was New York’s offense that buckled in that first contest. After a fast-paced, high-scoring first half, the Knicks crumpled under the weight of the stalwart Miami defense. Amar’e Stoudemire was frustrated in the paint, the shooters went cold, and the team did itself no favors by making just 13 of 23 free throws. The major caveat to that performance was that it was just two days removed from the Knicks’ gut-wrenching last-second loss to the Celtics — a defeat that stifled New York’s momentum and sapped them of energy. Tonight, New York will be well-rested (albeit well-traveled) and riding the high of two straight wins over the Thunder and Bulls. We should see a more closely contested battle this evening, especially if the New Yorkers in attendance swallow their boos.
Actually, forget it. Just boo the guy. He deserves it.