LEBRON SCORES 52 0N KNICKS

February 5, 2009

LeBron James scores 52 points en route to triple-double, beats Knicks but not Kobe Bryant

Wednesday, February 4th 2009, 10:41 PM

Sipkin/News

LeBron James finds going gets rough under basket but Cavalier still manages to turn in a Kobe Bryant-like performance.

If not for a late bout of leg cramps, LeBron James might have actually done the unthinkable and broken the Madison Square Garden record of 61 points just 48 hours after Kobe Bryant set it.

Instead, what LeBron did Wednesday night was unimaginable.

On one leg, the NBA’s best player under 25 years of age did something that no player has done since 1975; he scored 52 points and recorded a triple double as Cleveland survived a late scare to defeat the Knicks, 107-102. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the last player with to score 50 or more points and record a triple-double in the same game.

“I never thought you could look at a box score and see somebody with 50 and a triple-double,” James said. “You saw every phase of my game tonight – the scoring, the rebounding, the assists and defensively – and I just tried to attack the opposing team.”

The Garden is turning into a favorite playground for the league’s superstars, and the Knicks are perfecting the role of the human punching bag. This was supposed to be Dream Week for the Knicks, wasn’t it?

Bryant’s 61 on Monday were followed by James’ 52 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, the last of which was secured in the final seconds and resulted in James tripping over NBA photographer Nathaniel Butler, much to the amusement of James’ teammates.

James is the Knicks’ primary target in 2010 when he becomes a free agent and they appear to be doing everything they can to make him feel right at home. Last March, he scored 50 here and has tied Michael Jordan as the only players with multiple 50-point games at the current Garden.

“I can’t say this is the same as any other road game, because this is the Mecca basketball,” James said. “A lot of things have happened in this building, a great history and the fans have seen a lot. Like Kobe said, this is the last building that’s still alive.

“It’s just a different feeling when you come in this building – you feel like you’re on stage playing basketball, more than you’re on a court. So many great coaches and players have been here, there’s no way it’s just another road game.”

Bryant scored more points this week, but James brought out more celebrities, including Chris Rock, Andy Garcia, a former Spice Girl, a former Beastie Boy and two rappers – P Diddy and LeBron’s best buddy Jay-Z.

Then he goes out and does something Jordan never did.

“To be mentioned with the greats, it’s an honor,” James said. “It’s an honor that you’re in the same breath as Kareem and Michael. Those are some of the baddest guys to ever play this game, to walk on the face of the Earth and carry a basketball.”

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