Friday, June 6, 2014

Cramps and Stupid Tweets

Twitter was ablaze with baseless hatred and vitriol spewed toward LeBron, as usual, after last night's sweltering heat and resultant cramps. LeBron has had problems with cramps in the past, such as during the game in the 2012 Finals against OKC. If you remember that, you'll think of LeBron limping back onto the court and nailing a dagger three. If you don't, you might want to watch it again:

Of course, no one mentions this when they talk about LeBron not having grit and not fighting through pain. You want to compare other guys limping over and taking free throws (which don't require jumping, or moving, by the way) while hurt, but not compare LeBron to himself two years ago. Trust me, if there was any way his body would let him continue, he would have. In fact, he already was doing so after several cramps earlier in the game. He has quadriceps the size of a horse's and when they fail and start uncontrollably spasm-ing, it's not fun. This isn't an issue of playing through pain; it's an issue of simply not being able to continue in a way that helps his team. Risking further injury in that ridiculous environment when he was clearly dehydrated and exhausted would not have been heroic. It would have been idiotic. Spoelstra and the training staff instantly told him he could not continue; otherwise, he would have been on the floor stretching it out, pounding Gatorade, and taking potassium pills or other sources of electrolytes.

Plain and simple, the Heat should have won Game 1. This isn't to say they definitely would have, but they dominated the game up through that point, and things only changed when LeBron came out. Let's answer a couple common criticisms from last night, through the lens of dumb trolling tweets:

1. Kobe injury comparisons -

Yes, Kobe shot free throws after tearing his Achilles. Not a huge deal; if LeBron needed to do that, he definitely could have and would have. He's shot free throws with his left hand before. He has played through pain and cramps before, which by the way, are completely different. Did he need to be carried off the court? Probably not. But, his teammates didn't know what was wrong necessarily and there is no badge of honor associated with walking off the court on your own volition when you could risk further injury with a cramping and spasming muscle. It's just stupid. If you want to talk about something stupid, let's talk about Paul Pierce's dramatic return from the locker room in a wheelchair.

The bottom line here is that the comparison is stupid. Here's a comparison: Kobe sat out this season. LeBron is in the Finals, again.

2. "The heat affected both teams equally."

Well, thank you for your in-depth analysis! The simple fact for anyone who knows anything about basketball is that the Spurs are much deeper team and that is their strength. Popovich plays rotations just like the one he played in Game 1 that rest his Big Three and rely on the supporting cast to do the rest. The Heat were constructed as a top-heavy team that relies primarily on heavy minutes and contributions from Wade, James, and Bosh. They got that contribution, but only for 33 minutes.

3. Michael Jordan played in the "flu" game and other people have played injured.

Yes, Jordan's flu game was impressive. Do I think LeBron could have done it given the opportunity? Definitely. How many games has LeBron missed for injury or illness that were not preventive maintenance in the past few season? Not many. Definitely less than Jordan. DEFINITELY less than Kobe.

LeBron has played through cramps before, and done so in a meaningful way to win a game in the Finals...don't forget that. He also frequently rolls his ankle or hurts his back or a number of other ailments and plays through it without any complaint. He is the most durable player in the league and has proven his grit time and time again.

Here's him playing through back pain:
          Here's him dropping 33 on the Pacers after a bad ankle sprain:
Here's him coming back from the same injury (in air-conditioning this time) to spark the rally to win a Playoff game this year:
 Almost forgot this's him dropping 61 on the Bobcats with a broken nose:
 And, his own flu game...granted, much less important:
You know what's better than playing through pain and other circumstances? Being superhuman, never missing games, and almost never getting hurt. That's what LeBron gives you. And, when he does get hurt, he plays through it.

4. "LeBron cramped up, but no one else did."

Here's a suggestion why that might be the case...he is more athletic, relies on that athleticism for his game, and uses it more than any other player on the floor. He's not Mr. Fundamental like Duncan...he does absolutely EVERYTHING on both sides of the ball. Leads the team in assists, points, and rebounds on almost any given night while being their best defensive player. He guards Parker, Green, Leonard, and Duncan. He is guarded by Diaw and Leonard. I think it's fair to say he exerts a considerable amount more energy than anyone on the floor. I'm sure if you measured how many calories he was burning out there, he would be putting everyone else to shame just like he does by any other statistical measure. There are no excuses for him, and he isn't looking for any. The Heat still could have won, but this just put another stumbling block in their way (and a big one). The hate he gets for it is crazy.

You know what LeBron James never did? Leave the sport of basketball in his prime to play another sport that he was pretty terrible at. Jordan is celebrated for that, but if LeBron went off to play football for a year (which he would instantly be a Pro-Bowl caliber player at), he would be absolutely vilified for it...let alone if he went to play minor league baseball. I don't mean this to criticize Jordan, but merely to draw a comparison between the type of media and Internet criticism that LeBron is subjected to. Yes, he has brought some of it upon himself by opening up his life to the media and being a playful personality. When you have your own app about you, you're kind of asking for it.

The simple fact is that LeBron gets way too much criticism, and it's just stupid. He's the best basketball player in the world right now, and he is making a legitimate run at being the best ever. You said he's not clutch? You've already been proven wrong. (Yes, he did have a period where everyone saying he wasn't clutch became a self-fulfilling prophecy and made him less clutch; that period is over.) Yes, he passes sometimes (to wide-open, great shooters) when he should just selfishly assert his own dominance. That's better than missing on a forced shot like Kobe is so fond of doing.

Anyone talking about his cramps has never played a sport in their life, or at least hasn't played it hard enough to know what a cramp feels like. It's a muscular shut-down accompanied by intense fleeting pain that you wish would be over, but won't end.

Well, that's the end of my LeBron James defense for the day. Heat in 6, still. Game 1 road win would have just been a dagger, and it's a shame the Heat didn't grab it.