CLEVELAND - Maybe it was the new blue uniform. Maybe it was the humongous, fire-breathing scoreboard that detailed LeBron James' every move. Or maybe the emotion of it all, of returning to play in front of the fans he had abandoned four years ago, was just too much.
Whatever the cause, it was clear early on that James wasn't comfortable, that his first game back in Cleveland wasn't unfolding the way he or anyone else had envisioned.
James (17 points) shot 5-for-15 and had eight turnovers Thursday night as the Cavaliers were defeated, 95-90, by a Knicks team that had lost by 24 points to Chicago the previous night.
It was an unexpected and anticlimactic outcome to a game that just Thursday morning James had called "probably one of the biggest sporting events ever."
Rookie coach David Blatt said the excitement of all the pregame festivities might have caused his team's energy to peak earlier than it should have. James, however, chose to dissect his own game.
"I got some great looks. I missed a layup and some open threes," he said. "I think the turnovers got me more than anything. I hate turning the ball over. It's a pet peeve of mine. Eight is not OK."
It was not what he expected. The night was supposed to be as much about Cleveland as it was about James. He had made that clear months ago in Sports Illustrated, when he penned the love letter to Northeast Ohio that announced his return.
The same fans who were burning James' jersey in the street four years ago gave him a standing ovation Thursday night when he again was introduced as a member of their team. Hours before the stadium opened, they were partying in the streets outside. There were two free concerts, a lot of free food and a lot of cheap alcohol. SportsCenter broadcast live for a chunk of the day from Fourth Street.
"We're in the center of the sports universe," declared the lead story on cleveland.com.
James seemed to be swept up by the emotion at the morning shootaround.
"It's a pretty huge day," he said. "I understand how much I mean to the team, to this franchise, to this city, to this state. It's a different feeling. But I'm still calm and excited at the same time because it's the first game of the season."
James did everything he could to make Clevelanders a part of the festivities. He released a Nike video celebrating fans Thursday morning. He also used Twitter to poll his followers about whether he should mark his return in his usual way by walking to the scorer's table, filling his hands with chalk dust and throwing it to the heavens.
They voted yes, and the Cavaliers made them a part of the ceremony, passing out white confetti so they could mimic James at the start of the game.
When the chalk dust and confetti cleared, however, nothing seemed to go right.