The last time LeBron James played at Madison Square Garden, he joked around with Jay-Z and A-Rod, gave the Yankees a standing ovation for winning the World Series, and said this: “The atmosphere was great. Lot of stars in the building, and like I said, it’s humbling to know that you have guys like the Yankees come out and Jay-Z. It’s really, really humbling. You almost feel like you’re a performer sitting on the stage and they’re watching you perform.” In the first quarter, he scored nineteen points on 8-of-9 shooting, with a three-pointer at the final buzzer. The score at the end of the quarter was 40–21, Cavaliers, or Knicks 21, LeBron 19. The crowd actually gave him an ovation. You probably shouldn’t count on that tonight.
If you think LeBron’s nervous about playing at the Garden tonight — a game that will certainly win the silver medal in the Who Can Boo LeBron the Loudest? sweepstakes — you shouldn’t. TMZ grabbed him leaving a club at 2:30 this morning, and he said Amar’e Stoudemire should be the MVP this year, which was kind of him.
It’s going to get loud in there tonight, but we still think the anger will be more of the We Don’t Like You, LeBron variety rather than the We’re Angry You Didn’t Come Here kind. (As a thought experiment, imagine if LeBron had stayed with Cleveland. We don’t imagine him being booed any more than every other superstar is booed when they come into town. It’d be negative, but not with the vitriol.) It’ll be a better experience because the Knicks are playing well; it’s difficult to feel in a position of much power screaming one’s lungs out at a man if one’s team is 6–18.
Still: Contrary to some crazies, the Knicks would be better if LeBron James was here, obviously. And he tends to play his best games when he’s in this situation. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him drop 35 in a triple double tonight. He is, after all, the best player in the NBA, which is why the Knicks wanted him so badly in the first place.
That doesn’t mean fans can’t make him feel as if he missed something, especially considering the constantly dead crowds in south Florida. In LeBron’s game against Cleveland, his team was so dominating that by the end it felt dumb to yell. Knicks fans can only hope the Knicks can hang in long enough tonight to keep the building rocking all night. If they can do that, and perhaps even win, the Knicks still won’t have LeBron, but fans will feel just fine with how they are, thank you very much.