LeBron James is taking a lot of flack today for having to leave the game in the 4th quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals last night. #Lebroning is all over twitter today. Many today are saying that James’ failure to play through the cramps is further evidence that he will never be one of the greats because the all-time greats play through pain. The two most common cited examples are Isiah Thomas’ record 25 points in the 3rd quarter of Game 6 of the 1988 Finals after spraining his ankle earlier in the game and Michael Jordan’s “flu game” in the pivotal Game 5 of the 1997 Finals in which he had 38 points. I admittedly love to critique and pile on LeBron James’ penchant for vomit inducing theatrics and for flopping, but on this rare occasion I find myself as a LeBron James apologist, at least this one time. Playing through severe leg cramps is very different than playing on a sprained ankle or playing through a bout of the stomach flu. I have attempted to do both on much lesser stages (pick-up games) and it is not easy but doable. But I have also had severe leg cramps. When I ran the 2004 Moab Half-Marathon I cramped up so bad on the last mile I almost had to walk off the course. It is not a matter of mind over matter when all the muscles in your legs contract simultaneously. When this happens your leg physically becomes unable to do anything so I don’t think lesser of LeBron for not being able to finish the game last night.
But I do see where his detractors are coming from. LeBron’s self-proclamation as “the King” when he entered the league, combined with “taking his talents to South Beach”, the WWE style pep-rally, and his penchant for theatrical flopping after the likes of Tony Parker bumps into him cause many to question how much pain he was really in last night. But I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one occasion. I do not believe, however, that sports history will be so kind. I have a feeling that last night’s game, which was a great game by the way, broken air-conditioning and all, will forever go down as the “cramp game”, especially if the Heat do not come back to win the series.
Posted by Hatch