LeBron James’ Miami Heat looked an awful lot like LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Heat fizzled in the debut of their superstar threesome, scoring just 9 points in their first quarter of the season and falling behind the Celtics by 15 points at half-time.
James took over in the second half, scoring 21 of his 31 points, but it wasn’t enough to keep Boston from handing him another disappointment.
With chants of “overrated!” raining down on the US National Basketball Association’s (NBA’s) alleged superteam, the Celtics closed out an 88-80 victory and reminded Miami that it’s not so easy to slap together three stars and learn to win right away.
James left Cleveland for Miami because he decided that he couldn’t win a championship without more help than the Cavaliers could give him. But even with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he still needed more on Tuesday.
In what was being called the most anticipated regular season game in NBA history, the league’s newest superteam scored just 9 points in the first quarter, fewer than what the much less talented Heat scored in any quarter last season; the same with James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, for that matter.
Star power: LeBron James (left) drives past Paul Pierce. Reuters
It’s only one game, but it’s an early reminder that paper talent doesn’t always translate into a winning team, especially when superstars and their egos are involved.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were able to do it in Boston from the start, winning their first eight games in 2007-08 and 29 of their first 32 en route to the franchise’s 17th NBA title.
“They sacrificed everything. They didn’t worry about points or rebounds, anything individual,” James said before the game. “They just went out to compete as a team. I don’t think I have to score a lot for us to be in the game, because we have a lot of options.”
It was James’ first time back at the new Boston Garden since the Celtics eliminated his Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last spring, a second play-off loss in three years that helped convince him he could never be a champion in Cleveland.
“I’m excited about this new start. I’m excited about this season. I’m excited about this team and this franchise,” James said before the game. “I’m excited to get it going in a city where (I’ve) struggled.”
The sold-out crowd—a single ticket in the luxury suites was listed at $18,824 (around Rs 836,760) a few hours before the game—booed James virtually every time he touched the ball and delighted in Miami’s early struggles. But that was no different from when James was with the Cavaliers.
Returning to the building where his Cleveland career ended—one round after Wade and the Heat were knocked out of the play-offs—James avoided questions about the controversial summer in which he became the NBA’s biggest villain, except to say, “It was pretty long.” “This is fun. This is the best time of the year,” he said. “I’m at a point where I’m looking forward to playing the games.”
Under the banners for the Celtics’ 17 NBA championships—including the 2008 one that was hung at James’ expense—the former Cleveland superstar sat in his Adidas warm-ups chatting with a Nike representative while reporters surrounded teammates Wade and Bosh following the morning shootaround.
When those scrums dispersed, nearly a dozen cameras sauntered over to take videos of James, just sitting there. “I feel like a fish in a fish tank,” James said. “How fast can he swim?”
Since signing with the Heat, James has become beloved in Miami. He remains a respected rival in Boston.
But he’s still hated back in Ohio.
A radio host in Cleveland hired a witch doctor to try to jinx James and his attempt to win a title elsewhere. WMMS-FM broadcast the ceremony on Tuesday morning, claiming to use bones, blood and a James jersey to cast a curse on the two-time MVP.
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