MINNEAPOLIS — Playing LeBron James any day of the year is enough to make most opponents break out in cold sweats in the middle of the night.
Be one of the unfortunate teams to get a game against King James on his birthday, and you know you’re in for a long night.
James turned a ripe old 27 on Friday, and the Miami Heat star says he always plays with a little extra juice on his birthday.
“My birthday and my mom’s birthday are the two days I feel real, real good about playing basketball,” James said on Friday morning after the team’s shootaround. “I’ve had the luxury of having games on my birthday and my mom’s birthday so we’ll see what happens.”
That could be bad news for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The undefeated Heat play at Target Center in the fifth time in James’ nine seasons that he has played on his birthday.
In four previous birthday games, James has averaged 35.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists. He’s also shot 55 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range.
So what gets into him on those days?
“You know my birthday when I turned 15 or I turned 9, when I was growing up, it wasn’t the best of days on my birthday,” he said. “To see where I am today, and to be able to turn 21 and be in the NBA and turn 22 and now turn 27 and be a part of this league, it’s a testament. It’s also I’m very humbled that I am able to be here and I’m very blessed.”
James’ best birthday performance came in 2009 when he had 48 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in a victory over Atlanta while he was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s also the only time he’s headed home for his birthday cake with a victory.
James had 38 points and seven assists in a loss to Miami in 2008, 33 points and nine boards against Chicago in 2006 and 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in a loss to Indiana as a rookie in 2003.
“It’s amazing how many games he gets on his birthday, I’ll tell you that,” Heat star Dwyane Wade said. “He’s had a lot of games on his birthday. The schedule works that way.”
James is playing some of the best basketball of his career early this season for the Heat, who are coming off a disappointing NBA finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks last season. He’s averaging 32.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists in his first three games, and has developed a low-post game to boot.
“He’s been playing exceptionally well,” Wade said. “He’s in a different mind state right now. I expect him to continue the mind state he’s in.
“You can’t always know what that is going to result to, but he always enjoys certain moments. It’s a special moment when you get an opportunity to play on this day. The biggest thing is to try to come out and lead us to a win.”
James said the best birthday present he ever received was the Hummer SUV his mother bought him when he turned 18.
The Timberwolves had their own birthday treat for James when they shut down guard J.J. Barea for the game with a strained right hamstring. The super-quick Barea hurt the Heat in the NBA finals last season and was a major reason the Mavs were able to pull off the upset.
Asked if he will miss chasing Barea around, James didn’t hesitate: “Absolutely not.”