We were at Madison Square Garden on Friday night for LeBron James’s one appearance there this season, and we will say this: LeBron clearly loves playing at MSG. That’s not to say he’s going to play for the Knicks or anything like that, though, of course, we all remain hopeful because we want something to write about for the next few years. It’s just obvious that LeBron loves the footsie game with New Yorkers. He always plays his best games here, pals around with the celebrities at courtside, and generally hams it up. He loves our envy. He loves our lust.
LeBron’s first quarter on Friday night was a public display of perfection. He had nineteen points on eight-of-nine shooting, including a three-pointer at the final buzzer. The score at the end of the quarter was 40–21, Cavaliers. The Knicks were never in the game all night, but no one seemed to mind: Watching LeBron at the peak of his powers was more entertaining than anything the Knicks could have done. “LeBron’s first eight minutes were ridiculous,” Mike D’Antoni said after the game.
LeBron didn’t deny that being at MSG, and having Jay-Z (and A-Rod, by the way) courtside, made a difference. Our favorite part was when he joined in the standing ovation for the Yankees, a few of whom (A-Rod, Sabathia, Joba, Melky) were roaming around.
“The atmosphere was great,” James said. “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.”
Of course, the atmosphere is rarely great at MSG this year, but the good news is that LeBron is only there when he’s playing, so he wouldn’t know that. (Shhh! Don’t tell!) He sure looked like he was having a grand time, though.
Listen: We are not saying that he’s coming here. We are not saying that Knicks fans’ (and management’s, for that matter) desperate pleas for him are altogether dignified. We are just saying that if you were writing a script in which LeBron James ends up a Knick, and that script had to have a believable “last game he played at MSG before switching teams,” then Friday would have been the ideal story line. For one night, the Garden shook and sang, and we all lived the fantasy.