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King James hits the big time
by Mike Tuck / July 9, 2003

LeBron James played 23 minutes of the 40-minute contest and had the fans on their feet for most of that time. He had no concerns of playing in front of the big crowd.

“That was fun. That was pretty fun. I prefer to play in front of big crowds. I think I play a lot better. I like the bigger stage, my teammates like it, too. Like I keep telling you, my crowds were bigger than the Cavs crowds last year so I know they loved it. I know they loved it. I loved it also.”

The biggest thrill for LeBron was winning, though. The Cavs dominated from the outset, coasting to a 107-80 victory over the Magic. When asked what the best memory of the night was for him he said, “The victory.”

LeBron played brilliantly at times, delivering no-look passes and hanging in the air like Mike on a spectacular reverse lay-up. His final line was solid. He was 5-11 from the field, 4-4 from the line for 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists -- especially when considering he put up 10, 4, and 3 in the first period alone, of which he played all of it.

And LeBron played all 23 of his minutes at the point. He looked very comfortable handling the ball and running the team. A natural. There was much conversation over what position James would and should play, but he summed it up best when talking about playing point guard, “If we keep winning that will be the position for the rest of my career.”

Not all went perfect for the young star, though. The most memorable moment of the evening was not a LeBron highlight; it was James being posterized. After throwing a poor outlet pass, Britton Johnsen, a rookie forward out of Utah, took the intercepted pass back the other way and proceeded to throw down a monster jam on James who attempted to block the shot. That play got plenty of ooohs and aaaahhs from the crowd.

Other than that, the lowlights were few and far between. He air-balled a 25-footer as the shot clock wound down, to which the crowd responded with jeers and an air-ball chant. He also was slow on some defensive rotations, and made a couple poor passes, three resulting in turnovers. He was also 0-3 beyond the arc. But not of that mattered on Tuesday.

Pro summer leagues are usually reserved for crowds containing media, coaches, and scouts, and there is very little interest outside that circle. But for over 15,000 fans to show up to watch to what amounts to an organized scrimmage shows the hype surrounding James. In fact, not just the fans, but the media have bought in as well. Over 170 press credentials were issued for the game, which is more than some playoff games.

LeBron says he is used to the attention and doesn’t mind it. His teammate Darius Miles, is looking forward to more of it.

"I’ve been lifting a lot of weights, trying to get my body ready for TV. (laughter) I know we are going to have a lot of TV games so I have to get my body ready for TV. (more laughter) But it’s great to have fan support. Fan support is real big. That just makes you want to play harder and win more.”

With #23 on his team, it seems that crowds and winning definitely will be more frequent.

Mike Tuck is a producer/on-air talent for 740 The Team in Orlando and a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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