July 31, 2014

Elyria
Partly cloudy
61°F
test

Rick Noland: Cramping puts LeBron James in a tight spot

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) is helped from the court by guard Mario Chalmers, guard Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, front, right, and Rashard Lewis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) is helped from the court by guard Mario Chalmers, guard Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, front, right, and Rashard Lewis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Got my water, my Gatorade and a banana. Should the air conditioning in the office fail, I will fight through it. Heck, even if that mysterious injury to my right elbow flares up, I will battle on and type solely with my left hand.

I know, I know. Too easy. And maybe not even fair.

But as a columnist, when you get a layup, you’ve got to take it, just as LeBron James did Thursday night before exiting Game 1 of the NBA Finals for good due to muscle cramps.

I’m not saying James quit on his Miami Heat team, which fell totally apart without him and lost 110-95 to the San Antonio Spurs.

No, no, no, no. One thousand times, no.

In fact, the 6-foot-8, 250-pound small forward played his normal great game while putting up 25 points, six rebounds and three assists in an uncharacteristically low 33 minutes. With James on the floor, the teams battled to a draw. In the 15 minutes he was on the bench, the Spurs outscored the Heat by 15 points.

What I’m saying is that with temperatures approaching 90 degrees at the AT&T Center, No. 6 was the only player from either team who cramped up.

This from a guy who takes great pride in his body — can’t you picture him shrugging his massive shoulders as he shakes off a supposedly hard foul and heads to the line? — and goes to great measures to make sure he is ready to play major minutes every night.

I mean, James works out. He stretches. He hydrates. He gets his rest. In that regard, he’s a pro’s pro.

But something went wrong Thursday.

Something went very, very wrong.

Whether it was the heat and humidity in the building, too much adrenaline and/or a rare case of improper hydration and preparation really doesn’t matter.

It happened.

And whether you thought it was horrible, odd, amusing or fantastic, it happened for all to see.

One of the most indestructible athletes on the planet fell apart, a victim of the same muscle cramps virtually every weekend warrior has suffered at some point.

Now, make no mistake, muscle cramps are painful. Very, very painful. Once they hit, they don’t magically go away simply by guzzling a bunch of water, eating a banana and/or taking a potassium pill, because by then it’s too late.

But, my gosh, you would have thought James was going into labor.

Big, bad LeBron had to be carried to the bench, where he was in such anguish I kept waiting for him to be placed in Paul Pierce’s wheelchair and pushed to the Heat locker room.

Wasn’t it all just a bit too much?

It brought back memories of that mysterious elbow injury James had while playing for the Cavaliers against Boston in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.
You remember it, right? The pain was so immense that poor 23 had to shoot a free throw left-handed at one point.

Then the Cavs were eliminated, James took his talents to South Beach and we basically never heard another word about the seemingly life-threatening malady.

Talk about drama, King.

I mean, we were all fairly certain LeBron was going to live in 2010, and we were all fairly certain he was going to survive Thursday night, weren’t we?

Heck, we all know there’s a real good chance he’ll bounce back and have a monster performance Sunday to lead Miami to victory in Game 2. There’s also still a fairly good chance the Heat, led by James, of course, will win its third championship in a row.

And then the LeBron legend will grow some more.

I don’t have a big problem with any of that, because I’m no longer one of those people who gets pleasure out of watching James fail. I’m pulling for the Spurs, sure, but that has everything to do with how they play basketball and handle their business as players.

This is really another topic for another day, but I also don’t care one way or the other what LeBron does in the offseason. If he opts out of his contract and comes back to Cleveland, fine. If he stays in Miami, that’s fine, too.

Like LeBron on Thursday, I’ll survive either way.

It’s the constant drama I can do without. Of course, if we know one thing about James, it’s this: That drama isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

So give me my water, my Gatorade and my banana, because I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure nothing — here comes another layup — cramps my style.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.

Like us on Facebook:

  • oldruss

    Did Michael Jordan ever take himself out of a playoff game, finals or otherwise? Did Larry Bird? Magic Johnson? Kobe Bryant? Bill Russell?

  • Otter

    There is a reason they call it “LeBroning” Maybe he could take some acting lessons in the off season.

  • kiddingme

    Aren’t the cavs guaranteed to win a championship before King James? I swear I heard that somewhere . . .