"Phenomenal, amazing, stupendous ... he reminds me of me," Heat forward Chris Bosh said afterward in an overjoyed locker room.
James had 24 points at halftime, then added 25 in the third quarter. The record-breaker came with 5:46 left, when James spun through and around three defenders for a layup that fell as he tumbled to the court.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra walked into his postgame news conference with a confession: He nearly took James out after the third quarter.
He didn't. Good call.
"He was in a great groove, obviously," Spoelstra said.
Here's how good James was on this night: Al Jefferson finished with 38 points and 19 rebounds for the Bobcats, making him just the fourth player in the past six seasons to put up a stat line like that.
No one noticed.
"You take away his 61 points," Jefferson said, "and we still had a fighting chance there at the end."
Yes, even the Bobcats were marveling at James. He was hitting from everywhere, even a 3-pointer from about 30 feet — Spoelstra joked it was from 40 — late in the third quarter, as the crowd roared and the Heat bench jumped with joy.
"Yeah, that was a designed play," Spoelstra deadpanned. "We've been working on that one for a while."
That was the moment, James said, when he knew he was in the midst of a special night.
"I felt pretty good in the first half but halftime can always kind of derail things and slow things up," James said. "But I was able to get things going once again in the third quarter and I knew it could be one of those nights."
Not "one of those nights."
Even for James, this was like no other.