LeBron James was alone in the Lakers’ locker room pregame Saturday night, rapping along to every word of the New York-themed rap playlist.
He was readying to play in Madison Square Garden, a place he earlier referred to as “the Mecca of basketball” earlier in the day.
“It’s one of the most prestigious arenas to play in in the history of sports,” he said.
There was nothing ambiguous about it — James was going to try and put on a show.
But before the 113-105 win, James had a chance to settle some other things — like his cryptic social media post and his long-term plans with the Lakers.
He offered no explanation for posting an hourglass emoji to his account on X, formerly Twitter, after the Lakers lost earlier in the week in Houston. He gave no indication about his future with the Lakers beyond this season, when he’s got a player option.
He did, though, say that he thought the Lakers would be OK.
Saturday, they were better than that, with James setting the tone and delivering the punctuation.
In the first quarter, James slammed home a bounce lob from D’Angelo Russell on a 2-on-0 break to bring the Garden to its feet. The Lakers bench erupted in applause in the fourth when he forced Jalen Brunson into a miss at the end of a length possession.
And after his fallaway jumper iced the game in the final two minutes, the crowd do nothing but murmur as the Knicks’ nine-game winning streak was about to expire.
James had 24, Austin Reaves scored 22 and Russell had 16. Anthony Davis only scored 12, but he grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked four shots.
Saturday’s game was the first for the Lakers since likely losing Jarred Vanderbilt for the season after his injury in Boston. Darvin Ham, who was close to inserting Vanderbilt into the starting lineup for Taurean Prince, instead went with Rui Hachimura for Prince.
Prince had started all 47 games he appeared in before Saturday.
He scored 16 points in 33 minutes off the bench.
Brunson scored 36 for the Knicks, who were without O.G. Anunoby and Julius Randle.