LeBron James scored a career-high 61 points in the Heat’s 124-107 victory over the Bobcats in Miami on Monday.
James’ outburst established a Heat franchise scoring record, which Glen Rice set with 56 points against the Magic on April 15, 1995. The four-time MVP shot 22-for-33 from the field, 8-for-10 from three-point range and 9-for-12 from the free-throw line in the highest-scoring game of his 11-year career.
Here’s reaction from NBA media and players to James’ dominant, efficient performance:
• Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel: OK, let’s be candid here, show of hands: Who had an expectation of anything special on the first Monday of March against the Bobcats? … And that’s the thing, this team knows how to make moments, no player more so than LeBron James. This was captivating, theater of the highest quality. Twenty five points in the third quarter. Thirty seven points in the second half. It was breathtaking. And then to hear LeBron talk about how much it meant to do it with this roster, with these players? He certainly seemed to be very at home in this moment.
• Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Best player in the game, having probably the best game of his career. … It was a special night for a once-in-a-lifetime player playing in the midst of a three-peat quest. He not only put up 61 points, but he did it against the gritty Bobcats defense, which entered Monday night as a top-6 defense in the NBA. … And how’s this for poetry? A University of Miami journalism class picked one game on the Heat’s schedule to cover in person this season. Professor Michelle Kaufman just so happened to choose James’ 61 for her class. “We figured there’d be less media,” one Hurricane scribe put it. Indeed, ahead of the Heat’s upcoming road trip which begins Tuesday in Houston, several of the local papers gave their primary beat reporter the night off. James, it turns out, did not.
• Ethan Skolnick, Bleacher Report: I covered 50 of the team’s first 56 games of this regular season, home and road, from a seat somewhere inside some arena. Over the course of the past four years, since the Big Three first came together in 2010, I might have skipped 35 or 40, at most, of the Heat’s roughly 400 contests, including the preseason and postseason. Including some contests that even the most obsessed hoops junkie could find no cause to recall. But I chose to skip this one. … This is what the great ones do. They make you regret ever taking them for granted. It was Joe DiMaggio who told the Sporting News in 1951 that he played hard because, “there is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best.” The truly gifted are capable, when giving their all, of showing the audience something they won’t see from anyone else ever again.
• Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Over the past 11 years, LeBron James has played 958 regular-season and playoff games and never had a night like he did on Monday against the Charlotte Bobcats. There are a lot of numbers ahead in this story that will put some perspective on James’ career-best 61-point night but none will articulate it better than that one. In those nearly 1,000 games, James has won four most valuable player awards, gone to four NBA Finals and won two championships, but he has probably never been hotter than he was in the Miami Heat’s 124-107 win.
• Sean Highkin, USA Today Sports: There hasn’t been a better Most
Valuable Player race in recent memory than the current showdown between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. They’re the two best players in the league, and each having arguably the best statistical season of their careers. Durant dominated one of their two matchups this season, and James the other. There’s never been a better time to be a basketball fan. Giving the award to James because of one 61-point explosion is silly. But what Monday night’s historic performance accomplished was to remind the world that, for as unreal as Durant’s January was, he doesn’t have the award completely locked up. … The best thing for the NBA is for its two biggest stars to play tug-of-war with the MVP award down the stretch. It was LeBron’s early in the season, and then it was Durant’s for the last two months. Now it’s LeBron’s again. Whoever wins it, we’re watching one of the all-time great individual player rivalries.
• Zach Harper, CBSSports.com: James’ 61-point effort was one of the signature moments that you need in an MVP campaign, much like what [Kevin] Durant was putting up during his dominant portion of the season. The player who has the final signature moment of the 2013-14 season will likely end up with the award. Let’s see who wins the final sprint of the season.
• Dan Devine, Yahoo Sports: Thanks to Monday’s explosion, James is now averaging a cool 37.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and five assists in five post-All-Star break outings, shooting a crisp 67.9 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from 3-point land. Numbers like those are almost enough to make you want to get your nose busted and throw on a mask, but they might not be enough to vault him past the likes of Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant in the still-early-going MVP race.
• John Schuhmann, NBA.com: James shot 10-for-12 in the restricted area. He has shot 40-for-43 in the restricted area in his last five games and leads the league in restricted area field goal percentage (minimum 100 attempts) at 79.8 percent, the highest mark of his career.