I asked an NBA executive how good the Charlotte Bobcats would be if LeBron James played for them.
He thought for awhile and said, “A four seed.”
That would mean home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
It would mean fans in the bleachers.
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It would mean stories about LeBron sightings in this newspaper and every other media outlet in the city.
It would mean Carolina quarterback Cam Newton no longer would lead the city, state and region in Q rating and endorsements.
LeBron is not coming to Charlotte. If you can read these words, you know that. I don’t get to be dumb enough to start a rumor and you don’t get to be dumb enough to believe it.
It’s merely something to think about. In no other team sport can one player tilt the balance of power his way.
LeBron made Time Warner Cable Arena his Saturday. He did what he wanted to whom he wanted when he wanted, and Miami beat Charlotte 97-81.
The Bobcats announced that the game was a sellout. But in several sections in the upper deck there were blocks of empty seats. Maybe fans were in the concourse. Maybe they heard Panthers coach Ron Rivera say he wanted to go to the game but his wife, Stephanie, was making him go to a play. And fans joined him and the play was sold out and the fans had to tailgate outside.
LeBron’s numbers were pretty. He scored 30 points on 18 field goal attempts, grabbed four rebounds and handed out seven assists, six in the second half.
He was room service. Instead of ordering a steak, baked potatoes and a bottle of red wine, the Heat ordered points, rebounds and assists, a blocked shot and a steal.
And anytime the Bobcats threatened – they rallied from a 16-point deficit in the second quarter to tie the score in the third – they placed a side order. The side order was: Put the Bobcats in their place.
“He just makes everybody better on every play on both ends of the floor,” says Charlotte coach Steve Clifford. “He’d be fun to watch if you didn’t have to play against him.”
Clifford cites LeBron’s vision, willingness to pass, basketball IQ and the level at which he competes.
LeBron’s work didn’t end when the game did. He stayed on the court after his teammates left and talked to at least one kid. Don’t know who fans preferred when they walked into the arena. But by this point they were members of LeBron’s Legion. As he lingered on the court, fans leaned forward and took cell-phone pictures and called his name.
LeBron scored on one-against-the-world layups. He scored from the outside. He scored on a reverse alley-oop with his back to the basket.
As the third-quarter clock wound down LeBron worked against Jeffery Taylor. LeBron is 6-foot-8, 250 pounds. Taylor is 6-7, 225 and aggressive. He imposed himself on the Heat all night.
This was one-on-one on the perimeter. Taylor is from Sweden, and LeBron looked at Taylor as if nobody from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Greenland or even Norway could stop him. He looked at Taylor’s teammates as if nobody from the U.S. could, either.
LeBron worked him, worked him, Taylor never cowering and never backing down. With .3 seconds left in the quarter, LeBron hit a pull-up jumper from 16 feet to put the Heat up by eight.
A neon sign should have flashed inside the arena: The end.
When LeBron plays for the other team, it usually is.