CLEVELAND, Ohio — Wardrobe malfunctions can be a good thing for LeBron James.
For instance, the first time the Cavaliers wore those black jerseys that looked like T-shirts, on Nov. 4, 2015, James was so bothered by the sleeves that he tore them in frustration in the second quarter of the game that night against the New York Knicks.
James went to the locker room shooting 4-of-11 and the Cavs trailing, 46-38. He finished with a game-high 23 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and Cleveland won the game.
So on Friday, with the Cavs wearing the new iteration of the black jersey — a traditional tank top, designed by Nike with a little help from James — against the Charlotte Hornets, something was wrong with James’ shoes.
Or maybe, like the November night two years ago against the Knicks, it wasn’t the clothing that was off. It was James.
Either way, James wore a yellow pair of his signature Nike shoes for the first half, shot 3-of-8 for six points, and switched them out at half time. He put on a pair of black shoes — the LeBron 14s, from last season — and scored 21 of his 27 points and finished with a triple double in Cleveland’s 100-99 win over the Hornets.
“I just wasn’t playing well,” James said. “So, I’m a little weird sometimes. I wasn’t playing well, up to my standards so … I just wanted to make my second half better than my first half and I was able to make a couple plays.”
James shot 4-of-5 in the third quarter, and grabbed 12 rebounds in the second half. He was everywhere on the final defensive sequence of the game, forcing Kemba Walker to give the ball up to Jeremy Lamb for a contested 3-pointer that missed, and then blocking Walker’s desperation heave of a 3-point try as the buzzer sounded.
“I was able to cut (Walker) off and once he gave it up to Jeremy Lamb, I just wanted to try to deny him and not let him get the ball back,” James said. “Lamb threw up a 3, Marvin Williams got his hand on it and kind of tipped it out to halfcourt and I looked up at the time, it felt like one second left so I just tried to fly out there and get another contest and I was able to get the stop that we needed.”
James scored eight points in the fourth, but his new shoes weren’t total magic. He missed a free throw after a drive on Dwight Howard with 1:48 left that could’ve broken a 99-99 tie (his layup tied the game), and he missed a 3-pointer with 12.7 seconds left that would’ve all-but iced the game.
James’ history is littered with various wardrobe changes, from his head, to shoulders to (knees and) toes.
His signature headband was knocked off his head in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals with the Miami Heat, and he scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to help force a Game 7 that Miami would win over San Antonio.
In a game against Phoenix in March of 2015, his first season back with the Cavs, James had just two points to his name when he re-entered in the second quarter without his signature headband.
The Internet freaked out. It was like a king removing his own crown. James didn’t exactly light the night on fire without his headband, but he finished with 18 points and eight assists and the Cavs beat the Suns.
In Cleveland’s next game that season, at Dallas, James started the game without the headband for the first time since the 2003 preseason. He scored 27 points, the Cavs routed the Mavericks, and he didn’t wear a headband again until the 2015 Finals.
The headband was gone for the start of the 2015-16 season. He wasn’t wearing one when he ripped his own jersey sleeves.
Like he said, he’s weird sometimes.