NBA Superstars dazzle crowds at Madison Square Garden • Latino Sports

Basketball

NBA Superstars dazzle crowds at Madison Square Garden

on

New York–The capacity crowds that attended the Knicks contests on Monday and Wednesday were treated to individual performances that will be remembered for many years. Superstars Kobie Bryant and LeBron James, the two favorites vying for this season’s Most Valuable Player Award, demonstrated their value to their respective teams by their performances. Expectations are always high when either great athlete steps upon the hardwood floor. This week, at Madison Square Garden, those expectations were met and even exceeded.

 

Both basketball greats have extraordinary ability on the basketball court and seem capable of controlling the game while they are on the floor. The Knickerbockers organization brass is trying to create sufficient monetary room under the salary cap in 2010 by riding the organization of players with long-term and high salaried contracts, to be able to obtain either of these superstars or others close to the level of Bryant and James. The two have differences and similarities between them, but one thing is indisputable, and that is each of them is in the pantheon of all-time basketball gods.

The Knicks have been promoting the games at the Garden this week as “dream week”. Three of the NBA’s best and most high-profiled teams were scheduled to play, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics.

 The spotlight on Monday was, of course, on Bryant. He lived up to all expectations. Despite the absence of center Andrew Bynum, due to injury, Bryant led the Lakers to a 126-117 victory. In his quest to help his team win the game and impress the capacity crowd, Bryant set several scoring records. His 61 points were a greater total than the highest ever scored by an opposing player in the current Madison Square Garden. Michael Jordan scored 55 against the Knicks several days after a 1 ½ year absence from basketball.

Laker coach Phil Jackson was the coach of each these special games. He remarked, “It was a totally different team that the Knicks had at that time than playing at this time. They had big guys in the post. Both were remarkable performances but you are surprised it’s a Garden record.” The 61 was a record number of points scored in a Garden game, surpassing the 60 scored by former Knick Bernard King. Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was as impressed as was Jackson, “You have to take your hat off; he made some unbelievable shots.” The crowd could sense the special night that was coming early in the contest. To the horror of Knicks die-hards, many in the stands were cheering for Bryant. He received a standing ovation when he left the game.

The excitement could be felt throughout the Garden two days later. LeBron James came to town. The buzz heard in all corners of the building was, “Will LeBron score more points than Kobie?” Although the game was
close after the first quarter, the eyes of most observers in the Garden were on James. James scored 20 of Cleveland’s 36 points in the first quarter, giving many the hopes they would witness a record-breaking performance.  James netted 8 in the second quarter as New York cut the deficit to five points, 57-52. At the conclusion of the third quarter, the Knicks trailed by only four, 82-78, but James had scored 39 points. The play during the final period had most fans on the edge of their seats. The Knicks reduced the Cleveland lead to one point on three occasions in the last five minutes. James ability to drive to the basket and get to the free throw line was a crucial factor in the Cleveland’s 107-102 win. He scored 13, seven from the charity stripe. The outstanding performance of James was appreciated by the crowd. He received the plaudits of many in the arena throughout the game.

Although the 52 points scored by James fell short of Bryant’s 61, he also had a rare achievement. James is the first NBA player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 0n January 19, 1975 to score 50 points while achieving a triple double. James passed for 11 assists and grabbed his tenth rebound with less than two seconds remaining in the game.

Before the contest began, James told reporters he would not try to top Bryant’s mark of two days earlier, “We go out and try to win ballgames. Myself and Kobie go out and win ballgames and sometimes we make games like that. “It just so happens where we get high numbers or make an unbelievable play. It just so happens that way. But we’re out there first of all trying to win the basketball game. I never go into a game saying I’m going to try to put up a decent amount of numbers or anything like that. I’ve never been that type of player.”

Both expressed being humbled by their performances. James said, “Any time you’re mentioned in the same breath [with Michael Jordan], it’s an honor. He was an idol of mine.” Bryant stated, “It’s a blessing to do what you love and have moments like this. I just feel very blessed.”

Both athletes also expressed the importance of succeeding in Madison Square Garden. Bryant remarked, “This place is special…the building is special because it’s the last one left…This is the last one that holds the memories.” The words of James echoed the same emotions, “It’s a different feeling than in any other place. It’s the Mecca of basketball. It has a great history.  I could never think of this as just another road game.”

On Sunday, February 8, the two superb players will suit up to face one another as Los Angeles and Cleveland meet.

About William Gerena-Rochet

William Gerena Rochet, is the former Latino Sports baseball editor. He is a retired NYC teacher who divides his time living between New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He started writing for Latino Sports during the inaugural World Baseball Classic when a series was played in Puerto Rico in 2006. On of his favorite moments was covering the 2006 MLB All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. During his time with Latino Sports, he covered several divisional and League championship series games and the 2009 World Series. He also covered the last game at the old Yankee stadium and the first game of the current one. In closing, William has covered multiples Latino Sports MVP Awards ceremonies and Spanish Language Press Conferences including the Jorge Posada retirement one. Now a contributor, Willie will occasionally cover the Yankees.