LeBron James was in New York Wednesday night to accept his Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award, but you can make a case King James can't get the Big Apple off his brain.

The Knicks have emerged as one of the biggest threats to knocking the championship crown off his head. The Knicks and the Heat square off in their rematch Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Coach Mike Woodson's new juggernaut (13-4) enters the showdown with the best record in the Eastern Conference, after their thrilling 100-98 victory over Bobcats.

James, who swept the Knicks out of the playoffs last spring in a 4-1 first-round landslide, knows Carmelo Anthony's club is nipping at their heels and are in the championship conversation. The Knicks beat the Heat, 104-84, on Nov. 2 at the Garden in the club's season opener. Some blamed Miami's lopsided loss to a lack of focus, and they were caught up in the mayhem in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

James never has really given the Knicks their due before now and probably realizes the banged-up Heat looked vulnerable after their shocking 105-101 loss to the league-worst Wizards Tuesday.

"It's going to be fun,'' James said. "It's a team that is looking to get to a point where they can win a championship and we're trying to defend our championship. It will be electrifying in our arena. We know that it always is with the Knicks and the Heat.''

James got his first title last June and his buddy Anthony has taken notice of his peer's sudden success in what matters most — winning.

Getting a chance to see James' greatness daily during July and August at the Olympic training camp and in London during the Summer Games clearly has changed Anthony's view on basketball.

The Heat know these Knicks are different, especially Anthony, and the early results have been less bluster, more results.