CLEVELAND -- Over the course of history there are certain moments that, upon reflection, will cause you to remember exactly what you were doing in that moment. Historical events, moments like when Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon or when the first airplane tragically crashed into the tower. Sports events frozen in time like the night Havlicek stole the ball and when Magic Johnson took the podium to tell the world he was infected with HIV.
To that list another moment may soon be added: LeBron James' first playoff game. And boy, will this performance be remembered.
James was masterful Saturday afternoon, dismantling the Wizards in an effortless fashion on his way to registering his first career playoff triple-double, joining Johnson as the only players to record a triple-double in their first playoff appearance. Washington trotted out a parade of defenders to try and slow James, from Caron Butler to Antawn Jamison to Billy Thomas (Billy Thomas?). None of the aforementioned players was effective. At the end of the day, as Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas deadpanned, "the only person who could stop LeBron was ... LeBron."
It would be understandable if the 21-year old James were a little jittery before taking the floor. The same could be said for his Cavaliers teammates, who as supporting cast members of the King James reality tour, were no neophytes to the spotlight yet still -- outside a select few -- had little to no playoff experience to their credit. But just 90 minutes before the franchise's first postseason appearance in eight years, Cleveland's locker room was a picture of serenity. In one corner sat Damon Jones quietly watching film ("my highlight reel," he points out) while on the other side of the room veteran Alan Henderson was burying his head in scouting reports. Outside, coach Mike Brown cracked jokes with opposing players while admitting part of his preparation for the game involved a call between himself and a former mentor, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Not exactly what you would expect from a team whose star was barely a teenager the last time Cleveland made the postseason.
But it is a quiet confidence that begins with James, the man who, according to Drew Gooden, "sets the tempo" for the rest of the unit. The message James sent to his team Saturday night was simple: Attack early, attack often. With a dazzling array of penetrations and post moves, James carved up the Washington defense for 48 minutes -- the only player on either side to never leave the floor -- on his way into the history books. Don't think he didn't recognize what was happening either: midway through the third quarter, James playfully chided center Zydrunas Ilgauskas after Ilgauaskas blew a layup attempt off a James pass, thereby costing him an assist. For all his outward modesty, even James -- who also battled a sinus infection that limited him in practice during the week -- knew he was part of something special.
Only time will tell if the 20,562 in attendance and the millions watching around the globe were bearing witness to a historical moment. Maybe we're wrong, maybe James isn't destined for the greatness we all have him earmarked for. But maybe Saturday will become one of those frozen moments that we look back on and say hey, I remember what I was doing that night.
Pyrotechnics have become a staple at most NBA arenas, but is there a rule that requires them to be so loud? Cleveland's explosive introductions forced the officiating crew to cover their ears for two minutes. One scout in attendance swears he never comes to Quicken Loans Arena without earplugs. ... James didn't touch the ball until Cleveland's sixth possession. His first offering? An airball. ... James was serenaded all night by chants of "M-V-P" from the Cavalier faithful...Arenas changed sneakers at halftime, switching from the traditional high-tops to his favored low-cut shell toes...Cleveland's staunch refusal to take advantage of Ilgauskas in the post is baffling. Ilgauskas had only seven field-goal attempts while having his number called on the low block only a handful of times. "They ought to dump it down to him every time," says one playoff participant not involved with this series. "It's crazy, the guy can score from anywhere and they just won't give it to him."