It didn't take long for LeBron James to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by Kobe Bryant on Monday night. 11 straight points in the first quarter made it clear that he came for a turn in the spotlight. He never gave it up, finishing with 52 points and a triple-double in the Cavs' 107-102 win, the first time that's happened in almost 35 years.
And he did in front of a crowd that welcomed him with less gusto than they did in November and less warmth than Bryant got when he scored 61. Whether that was because they were chastened by Reggie Miller's comments or because they wanted to show James how much they could get behind the home team, the crowd lustily cheered the Knicks comeback and gave the Garden a big-game atmosphere.
If James came to New York, he'd bring that every night. Watching him glide past defenders as if they didn't exist and finding the open man out of a triple team reinforced the feeling that James is a singular, once in a lifetime talent. How could the Knicks or anyone else not try everything they could in order to bring him to their team?
Bryant has the same appeal, obviously, but thoughts of him joining the Knicks are nothing but a pipe dream. His game, though, offered further support for the notion that the Knicks need to mortgage the present for a shot at a superstar in the future. It's almost impossible to win in the NBA without at least one transcendent player, and they don't get any more transcendent than the pair that have lit up the Garden this week.
The Knicks called this week, which finishes with the Celtics on Friday, Dream Week. If the Knicks ever want to be part of someone else's dreams, they've got to get a player worthy of fantasy.