MIAMI (AP) -- An hour after what he called the best regular-season game he's ever played, LeBron James simply explained why this performance was like none other.
The basketball, he said, felt small as a golf ball.
The basket, to him, looked as wide as the ocean.
Best player in the game. Best game of his career. James rewrote his record book Monday night, etched his name a few different times in Miami Heat annals as well, and let the NBA know in crystal-clear terms that his MVP award won't be ceded without a fight this season. He scored 61 points, setting career- and franchise-bests, as the Heat topped the Charlotte Bobcats 124-107.
"A surreal feeling for me right now," James said.
With good reason. He made 22 of his 33 field-goal tries, becoming just the third player in the past 25 years to take that many shots and make at least two-thirds of them, with only Alex English and Shaquille O'Neal on that list. James set a career-high for field goals made, plus Heat records for points in a quarter (25) and a half (37).
And of all his feats on Monday, the most impressive might have been how he started 8 for 8 from 3-point range.
"The man above has given me some unbelievable abilities to play the game of basketball," James said before the Heat flew to Houston for a game there Tuesday. "I just try to take advantage of it every night. I got the trust of my teammates and my coaching staff to go in there and let it go."
Glen Rice scored 56 to set the Heat record on April 15, 1995, against Orlando. James' previous career best had been 56 points, on March 20, 2005, for Cleveland against Toronto.
This outing was much better, James said. Not because 61 tops 56 - but because the night he scored 56, his Cavaliers lost.
"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.
"Once he sniffed 60, we knew he was going for it," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "And the amazing part is the efficiency. Good Lord. Sixty-one on 33 shots, that's Wilt Chamberlain-esque. That's pretty amazing. Incredible performance."
When James checked out with 1:24 left, the entire Heat roster met him near midcourt for high-fives and hugs, and the sellout crowd gave him a standing ovation. A second huge roar followed when he waved to the crowd, as "M-V-P" chants rained down.
"If he's going to shoot the ball like that from that range, there's nobody that's going to beat them," Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said.
Miami was without guard Dwyane Wade, who got a night off to rest. Spoelstra stressed there's been no setback for Wade, who has been on a knee-maintenance program throughout this season and is averaging 23.5 points on 62 percent shooting since the All-Star break.
Wade probably didn't mind sitting for this one. It gave him a courtside seat for the show.
James made three 3-pointers in the first 7 minutes of the quarter - he was 6 for 6 from beyond the arc at that point - and when Charlotte bit on his head fake from the top of the key, James coolly found Toney Douglas to set up another 3. A tip-in by James followed not long afterward and just like that, the lead was up to 83-63.
Charlotte scored the next six points, but any notion that the game was slipping from Miami's control was quickly extinguished.
James scored the next six himself, a pair of three-point plays to restore the 20-point edge and give him 43 points, already a season high.
All that was left to see was what he'd finish with.
The answer was history.
James has been asked plenty of times in recent weeks about the MVP race, especially with many prognosticators suggesting the trophy is likely headed to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.
Might be time to reopen the thinking on that one.
"Every night I go on the floor I want to be the MVP, of this league, MVP of this team, MVP for me, myself and my family," James said. "I've set a high standard and I have to live by that."
On this night, he did. And more.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Challenged for the first time under Major League Baseball's expanded replay system, umpires got it right.
The umps went 3 for 3 on Monday as MLB tried out the new format at three spring training games.
The first test came at 3:06 p.m. EST in Fort Myers, Fla., after first base umpire Fieldin Culbreth ruled Toronto shortstop Munenori Kawasaki's throw pulled Jared Goedert off the bag in the sixth inning.
"I'm not too sure that you're not right here," Culbreth said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told him, "but since we haven't done it before, let's go take a look."
Culbreth answered: "OK. That's what it's for."
After 2 minutes, 34 seconds, replay umpire Brian O'Nora relayed his call by headset, confirming that Minnesota batter Chris Rahl was safe. During the wait, Rahl said he realized he perhaps was part of history.
"It's kind of funny. I was thinking, `Is this the first one?'" he said.
O'Nora made the final ruling from a satellite truck outside the stadium. During the regular season, umpires on the field will check with the replay booth in New York, where an MLB umpire will make the final call.
Later in the game, Culbreth rotated and took a turn in the truck, confirming another safe call at first base.
"I'm looking at this thing as, this is the future of the game. And I'm going to treat these games here the same way that I'm going to treat them during the regular season," Culbreth said.
In the eighth inning, Doug Bernier of the Twins was called safe on a close play at first. As Culbreth studied the replay, the ballpark sound system played a Rolling Stones song with the familiar lyric, "I can't get no satisfaction."
The call was confirmed, Bernier was safe.
Extra replay also was in place for two games in Arizona - the Los Angeles Angels vs. Arizona Diamondbacks in Scottsdale and the Chicago Cubs against Milwaukee in Phoenix.
Each team in the majors will have at least five exhibition games with the new system in place.
In January, owners approved the use of additional video replay to review most calls other than balls-and-strikes. Previously, umpires could only go to replay to review home runs and boundary calls.
Moments after the first replay call, Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasted little time in using his challenge.
In the top of the second, Luis Jimenez of the Angels tried to steal second. Catcher Bobby Wilson's throw was high but second base umpire Bill Miller ruled that Aaron Hill tagged the runner out.
Scioscia bounded out of the dugout and charged toward Miller to argue, just like managers always have done.
Instead, though, he chose to use his challenge. After two of the umpires made a quick visit to the Angels dugout to communicate with the replay umpire, the call was upheld.
"We weren't trying to make a mockery out of it," Scioscia said of using the challenge so soon. "We thought it was a pretty close play."
There was only one angle available with the limited camera work of a spring training telecast.
"If we have 15 angles of that," Scioscia said, "there's a possibility it gets reversed."
That review took 2:31.
Since he lost the challenge, Scioscia had no more.
"I don't think it's going to take much time in the logistics. That will smooth out," he said. "As far as the strategy of it, that's going to take a lot. It might be something you win, but you know you need that challenge to save the big play somewhere."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Arizona's Kirk Gibson did not use their challenge. Neither did Cubs manager Rick Renteria nor the Brewers' Ron Roenicke.
Gibson said he thought about contesting a close play when Paul Goldschmidt nearly beat out a grounder but said he decided it was 50-50 and not worth it.
"I think it's going to be a lot more complicated than we thought," Gibson said. "We had a lot of conversation during the game."
For the Angels-Diamondbacks game, the replay trailer was set up in the parking lot behind center field. Teams are allowed to have a person to watch the game on television and advise the managers via phone whether it would be worth it for the call to be challenged.
The Angels communicated via walkie talkie Monday but there will be a dedicated phone line for each team in the major league parks.
Under the new rules, each manager has one challenge. If the first challenge is successful, the manager gets a second. From the seventh inning on, if the manager is out of challenges, the umpire can decide to have the play reviewed.
Some critics of expanded replay worried that challenges would delay the game too much. Culbreth said he didn't think that would be a problem, and pointed at the benefits.
"It will work itself out. I think time really isn't going to be an issue in the end," he said. "And if it is, it's about getting the play right in the end, anyhow."
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Once the shock and emotions of leaving Buffalo and the Sabres began to wear off, goalie Ryan Miller began looking forward to the challenge he and Steve Ott will face in living up to the St. Louis Blues' expectations.
Sabres no more, Miller and Ott are going from the NHL's worst team to a bona fide Stanley Cup contender after being traded to the Central Division-leading Blues (39-13-6) in a five-player, two-draft-pick deal Friday night.
"It's definitely humbling and flattering that they would make that kind of move and bring us in with the intention of giving them some help to push for a Stanley Cup," Miller said. "We're excited for the opportunity there. But also, it's about the responsibility we have to that organization to show up and get up to speed and compete as hard as we can to live up to the trade."
With his voice at times cracking with emotion, Miller spoke at a news conference during the first intermission of the Sabres' game against the San Jose Sharks. The deal was made about an hour before the game, and marks the first significant move since Tim Murray took over as general manager in January.
In exchange for trading away Miller and Ott, their captain, the Sabres acquired goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 third-round pick.
The Central Division-leading Blues shored up their goaltending in an attempt to avoid another disappointing playoff run after being eliminated by Los Angeles in successive seasons.
Miller was expendable in Buffalo because the 33-year-old was in the final year of his contract and the Sabres were concerned he'd have little interest re-signing with a team early into its rebuilding stage.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made the deal with a more short-term objective in mind.
"The deal was made on the here and now. We'll worry about the future after the season," Armstrong said during a telephone conference call. "Obviously, Ryan Miller's resume speaks for itself. It gives us a better chance for success."
Miller won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie in 2010, the year he was the Most Valuable Player of the Olympic tournament in Vancouver, and is Buffalo's franchise leader with 284 victories and 540 games. This season, he's 5-22-3 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. He's 284-186-57 with a 2.60 GAA and .916 save percentage overall.
Armstrong noted the trouble the Blues had against the Kings and goalie Jonathan Quick during the playoffs and believes Miller can make a difference.
Ott has credentials as a leader and provides the Blues a gritty two-way forward.
"He's an antagonistic player," Armstrong said about Ott. "He's a player that has that playoff pedigree."
Sabres coach Ted Nolan was set to start Miller on Friday night against San Jose, but the goalie and Ott did not take the ice for warm-ups and were scratched.
The Sabres acquired Ott from Dallas along with defenseman Adam Pardy in exchange for Derek Roy on July 2, 2012. Ott had 18 goals and 26 assists in 107 games for Buffalo.
Halak was in his fourth season with the Blues after spending his first four years with Montreal. He has a 24-9-4 record with a 2.23 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and four shutouts this season.
Stewart has 15 goals and 11 assists in 58 games for the Blues this season, and 115 goals in a six seasons with Colorado and St. Louis.
The 19-year-old Carrier was the Blues' second-round pick in 2013.
Though aware he was on the trade block, Miller had difficulty coming to grips with leaving a team and a city, which he regarded as home for 12 years.
"I don't know if I'll make it through this, so let's keep it quick," Miller said, his voice already quaking. "I'm really going to miss this part of the world."
Ott had preferred to stay in Buffalo, but understood that he was likely to be traded by a team seeking to rebuild.
He was particularly excited to be joining the Blues with Miller.
"It's amazing. This guy right here is the best goalie in the world," Ott said. "He has been our best player, our MVP in Buffalo in a tough, tough season. To have that opportunity to go along with Ryan for myself, I know how great he is. Both of us want to live up to expectations."
Because the trade was so completed so close to game time, the Sabres had to scramble to find a backup to Jhonas Enroth.
They signed Ryan Vinz, a former high school goalie, who is employed as the director of hockey technology of the Sabres-backed HarborCenter facility, which is being constructed across the street from the team's arena. The complex will feature two rinks and a hockey academy. Vinz was a walk-on at Clarkson, but never played and wound becoming the school's video coordinator.
AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report.