CLEVELAND (Ohio) • LeBron James led his pack of team-mates towards the banner Cleveland waited 52 years to see. Then he laid his newly minted ring finger on the wine-coloured banner before it was raised to the sky.
The Cavaliers superstar delivered on his mission to bring a National Basketball Association title to Cleveland. He did not waste long getting back to work on delivering another.
The 31-year-old celebrated the Cavs' title with 19 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds for his 43rd career triple-double, and Cleveland opened the defence of their first title by smashing the new-look New York Knicks 117-88 on Tuesday.
It was his second triple-double in as many games. He also recorded one in the championship-clinching victory in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in June when the Cavs became the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a championship, beating the Golden State Warriors.
"I just picked up where I left off," James said. "Back-to-back triple-doubles. I'm fine with that."
Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and Kevin Love contributed 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs, who capped an electrifying day with an emotional victory.
Carmelo Anthony scored 19 points, Derrick Rose added 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting in his Knicks debut, and Kristaps Porzingis had 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Knicks overhauled their roster over the close season by adding Rose and Joakim Noah, who went scoreless and grabbed six rebounds, but discovered on Tuesday how far they still have to go to catch the defending champions.
James had six dunks and improved to 3-0 on ring nights, including his titles with the Miami Heat.
"Tonight left a bad taste in everybody's mouth," Rose said. "We've got to put people down. We've got to foul. Not put them down, but for sure we have to foul them in the open court to make sure (James) doesn't get the crowd into the game. Little things like that, we just have to learn."
Fuelled by adrenalin, the Cavs blew open a close game at the half with a dominating third quarter.
They ended the night shooting 13 of 35 on three-pointers. But the Knicks made just one field goal over a five-minute stretch in the third quarter, allowing the Cavs to extend a five-point lead to 69-53 on a night that was all about Cleveland from start to finish.
As James wiped away tears and fiddled with his new ring that is stuffed with 216 diamonds - representing Cleveland's 216 area code - the Cleveland Indians hosted the Chicago Cubs across the street in Game 1 of Major League Baseball's World Series.
This city with so little to cheer about in many decades is suddenly overflowing with riches.
"At this point, if you're not from here, live here, play here... then it makes no sense for you to live at this point," James told a sold-out crowd that roared louder with his every word. "Cleveland against the world."
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