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LeBron James finally returns to his favorite arena rested and on the brink of history – Boston Herald


When the Lakers ruled out LeBron James for his annual trip to Brooklyn, it was, in a lot of ways, a statement on The King’s priorities:

Madison Square Garden, the place James long ago dubbed his favorite arena, is that priority. As an opponent, of course. He turned down a couple of opportunities to call it home, most notably during James’ 2010 free agency extravaganza. If you believe Charles Oakley, who wrote about an exchange with James in 2014, the reason is James Dolan.

Now James is playing at MSG on Tuesday for the first time in over three years, resting for Monday’s Brooklyn game to ensure spry legs for his Midtown return. It’s James’ longest absence from MSG, by far, since he was drafted in 2003. You also have to wonder, given James’ age, whether it’ll be his last appearance.

The world is unpredictable, after all. James missed his last two annual trips because of an injury and a suspension. In between, a pandemic happened and James won his fourth championship inside a biosecure bubble in Disney World.

Now there’s a sore foot that kept James out of Monday’s game at Barclays Center, according to Lakers coach Darvin Ham, although logic tells us the four-time MVP will make every effort to play against the Knicks.

“If I could have 82 regular-season games in the Garden, I would because it’s the Mecca of basketball,” James once said.

Still, James has been relatively average at MSG in recent years. At least by his megastar standards. It’s now been 14 years since James’ 52-point gem in 2009, and he’s since failed to score over 33 points in 18 appearances at the Garden.

But there’s an opportunity for something special Tuesday. A chance to conjure memories of Michael Jordan’s unexpected double-nickel. At 38 years old, James is continuing a dominance that defies Father Time. The Lakers may stink with a 23-27 record before the Brooklyn game, but James is less culpable than his teammates (ahem, Russell Westbrook). He’s averaging over 30 points with 8.5 rebounds and 7.1 assists, all while chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record.

On, the cheapest seats at MSG were near the roof for over $250 as of Monday evening. It was double the price for any seat over the next four home games. Only the Warriors, the defending champs, are a bigger draw.

James’ popularity remains unmatched in the NBA. He was the top All-Star vote getter among fans, by far, surpassing every player in the Western Conference — even Steph Curry — by over 1 million. His Lakers jersey was No. 1 in sales through the season’s first half, according to the NBA. It’s a testament to his longevity and greatness, but also problematic when he misses games like Monday.

The folks in Barclays Center didn’t pay to see Troy Brown Jr. and Dennis Schroder.

But James is apparently trying to manage foot pain, and MSG has to be the priority in a back-to-back set. James won’t break Jabbar’s record at his favorite arena, but he’ll be plenty motivated and rested to put a big dent in the 117 points remaining.



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