Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA [Print without images]

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Upset Knicks fans react to LeBron

By Ian Begley
Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK - Burned. Scorned. Duped. Dumped.

The 200 or so Knicks fans huddled outside of Madison Square Garden felt all of the above after LeBron James announced his decision to join the Miami Heat on ESPN on Thursday night.

After seven days of stringing along Knicks fans, James finally made it official around 9:30 p.m.: He was going to Miami and leaving James Dolan, Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni at the free-agent altar.

The fans huddled outside of MSG were optimistic leading up to the announcement, blowing on $10 blue vuvuzelas with pictures of James and Amare Stoudemire pasted on them.

The speculation about James coming to New York reached a fever pitch Wednesday when word leaked that James would make his decision from the Greenwich (Conn.) Boys & Girls Club, a figurative fast-break away from the Garden.

But the crowd's hope and optimism quickly changed to anger and disappointment after James told the world he was joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach.

The immediate reaction among the Knicks fans on Seventh Avenue isn't suitable for print. But Anthony D'Alessandro, decked out in a home white Knicks jersey and backwards white Knicks cap, summed up the attitude of the irate, boisterous crowd best.

"I think he took the easy way out," D'Alessandro said. "Miami's Dwyane Wade's team. It's never going to be his."

"It's awful. That's definitely a cop-out right there," his buddy Matt Syro said. "It's like we were disappointed once again."

The great free-agent chase of 2010 is nearly over. The fact that the Knicks have Amare Stoudemire, Anthony Randolph and little else to show for it didn't sit well with lifelong Knicks fan Robert Rhani. Rhani worked up a sweat on Seventh Avenue screaming and cursing James as soon as the King broke the news.

"Damn it, Donnie!" Rhani yelled, pointing at the Garden and referring to the Knicks president. "I've been waiting for this for years!"

Rhani believes James will now be the most hated man at Madison Square Garden since Reggie Miller in the mid-1990s.

"He will never be cheered in there again!" Rhani yelled. "Never! He's a disgrace!"

"He was one of the most liked guys in the league and now he's going to be the most hated," added Tom Alberston, who was surrounded by fans near the Garden's famed marquee as he watched the decision on his iPhone.

"I have a broken soul," Greg Hurdle said after learning the news from Albertson. "I can't believe this."

James will now be known by many as the superstar who woulda-coulda-shoulda come to the Knicks.

But that was fine with Tom Nicholas, who strolled through the crowd wearing a Heat shirt and a smile that seemed to be as wide as Seventh Avenue an hour after James made his announcement.

"They were waiting for years to get this guy and we just snatched him," said Nicholas, a lifelong Heat fan from Miami. "This is the greatest feeling in the world."

Ian Begley is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

More from ESPNNewYork.com