HOUSTON -- Michael Jordan was responsible for so much heartache for Patrick Ewing, the Knicks and their fans. He also was the inspiration for many players in Sunday night's NBA All-Star Game.
There was almost as much hype about Jordan turning 50 Sunday as there was about the game. The players were asked what Jordan means to them and what stands out about him.
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Carmelo Anthony considers Jordan a mentor, a friend and, well, a boss. "I've been around him for 10, 11, 12 years already," Anthony said. "I have a better relationship than a lot of people do, a personal relationship with him. He's my boss over at the Jordan brand. I was able to spend some time with him, get to know him over the years.
"As far as basketball goes, we all know what he did. We all know he changed the game of basketball. Most importantly now is how relevant he still is . . . His relevance right now, I've never seen anything like it."
LeBron James said he has twice as many memories of Jordan as the number of candles on Jordan's cake.
"I got 100 of them," he said. "You name it, from his shoes, to him flying through the air, to him switching hands against the Lakers, to him hitting the threes versus the Blazers, to him being on the TV screen with Bugs Bunny, to him jumping over the building in a suit in the commercials, to him hitting the golf ball, to him swinging a baseball bat. MJ was an inspiration to me growing up."
James counts the Knicks among the contenders who could knock off Miami and doesn't buy the theory that the only team that can beat the defending NBA champion is itself.
"That's not true," James said. "Indiana is very, very good, very good. New York is very good. Chicago is very good. Boston's very good. It's not the only people who can stop us is us. We have to prepare for those teams and we have to get ready for those teams when the playoffs come around. We know we're going to match up against one of them. But we know if we play our game at the highest level, we're going to put ourselves in position to win."
The Knicks beat the Heat by a total of 40 points in their first two meetings and have two left. Miami, four games ahead of the second-place Knicks in the East, is 0-5 against the Knicks, Pacers and Bulls. "We don't need wins versus top teams in the East to make us feel good about our season," James said. "We know who we are as a team. We know we can compete against anybody in the league."