In what was expected to be a dazzling return to his former team, LeBron James struggled in the Cleveland Cavaliers' season opener, turning the ball over eight times, and scoring just 17 points, in a 95-90 loss to the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday night.
There had been an electric atmosphere in Cleveland leading up to James's much-anticipated homecoming after his infamous departure for Miami in 2010. Jersey sales, t-shirts, and all types of Cavaliers merchandise had been flying off the shelves in Ohio in recent weeks in anticipation of James's arrival.
But the Knicks spoiled the party. Led by Carmelo Anthony's 25 points, the Knicks held onto a fourth-quarter lead and were able to survive a late Cavs push in the final five minutes for their first win of the season, and first under new head coach Derek Fisher. It was a fine bounce-back effort for Anthony after scoring just 14 points against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
All eyes were on James, but the superstar forward failed to produce a typical prolific performance under the heavy spotlight. James managed to convert just five of his 15 shot attempts. His eight turnovers matched the total number of the Knicks starting lineup.
Meanwhile, James's star teammates performed admirably in the season opener. Kevin Love, who was dealt to the Cavaliers in the summer, impressed in his debut with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while point guard Kyrie Irving led his team with 22 points and seven assists.
Though James admitted that he "didn't do much," particularly in the first half when he made just one of his nine shot attempts, the announcement of his name before tip-off energized the crowd to make it a special night for the Cavs. It was the most boisterous sports moment in Cleveland since James last played a full season for the Cavs in 2009-2010.
"It was pretty incredible," said New York forward Amare Stoudemire. "I haven't seen anything like that before. The city was on fire. It was great to kind of spoil the excitement -- great for us."