Nobody would have guessed that an air conditioning malfunction brought on by an overheated circuit breaker would end up being a major X-factor during Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
With temperatures in AT&T Center reaching as high as 90 degrees, per ESPN’s Royce Young, players on both the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat were struggling to fight through the elements. The hot, muggy conditions got the better of four-time MVP LeBron James, who was shut down through most of the fourth quarter as a result of leg cramps.
Of course, the heat and humidity weren't the only factors causing James' body to shut down. Bleacher Report's Sports Injuries Lead Writer Will Carroll wrote about that in a recent column.
It is worth noting, however, that James has a history with cramps. He battled them during Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals and said at the time: "The muscles just lock up on you. It's not a pleasant feeling," per Sporting News' David Whitley.
Two years later, the ailment has cropped up again. Not surprisingly, Twitter had a field day taking potshots at LBJ as a result.
WFAN Radio’s Brian Monzo tweeted:
Here’s one of many examples from Fox 29 San Antonio’s Erin Nichols:
Of course—as is the case with any hullabaloo involving James—ESPN First Take’s Skip Bayless got involved by providing his two cents:
That prompted his ESPN colleague, Stephen A. Smith, to tweet the following:
Still, perhaps no Twitter entity went at James more often throughout the evening than the official account for Gatorade. Mark Vandeusen of CelticsLife.com provided a cohesive synopsis, as did CNN’s Rachel Nichols.
With comments like, “Our athletes can take the heat,” and, “We never cramp,” Gatorade certainly didn’t hold back.
The company has since issued an apology for the string of tweets.
Per the Associated Press (via USA Today), Gatorade said the following in a release:
"Our apologies for our response to fans' tweets during (Thursday) night's Heat vs. Spurs game. We got caught up in the heat of the battle. As a longtime partner of the Miami Heat, we support the entire team."
Let's just say the comments weren't the best marketing strategy.
My question is, who among us could have played through those crippling cramps?
When asked if the cramping was limited to his left leg, James said, “Well, no, it was the whole left leg, damn near the whole left side. I was losing a lot (of fluid) throughout the game. It was extremely hot in the building, you know, both teams, fans, everybody could feel it,” per the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman.
Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas was among the group that didn’t fault James’ inability to play.
“There is no athlete on the planet who could’ve played through those cramps,” he said, per Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. “Michael Jordan absolutely couldn’t have played through those cramps. I absolutely couldn’t have played through those cramps. As an athlete, there’s nothing you could do.”
Thomas came to James’ defense and even added: “There’s no way you could play that way. People have to understand that—just no way.”
Despite having his legs taken out from under him—rendering him all but useless for a competitive basketball game on the league’s highest stage—James still wanted to compete.
He returned to action for a short while after an initial substitution and even managed to drive to the bucket and score. But that's when the cramps flared up even more and kept him out for the remainder of the game.
“I was going to try to give it a go and Spo said no. It sucks at this point in time in the season,” he said, per Winderman.
Even though LBJ wasn’t able to move on his own—much less run up and down the court, attack the basket and defend—he wanted to be out there. Head coach Erik Spoelstra, smartly, shut him down. That didn’t warrant the public grilling the 10-time All-Star took on social media.
Fortunately for Miami, though, James and Co. will get two full days of rest prior to Sunday’s Game 2. That will give LeBron extra time to recover.
“I need it, I need it, I need it. We’re going to start tonight, continue to get the fluids in me and get me ready for Sunday,” he said, per Winderman. “Look forward to Game 2 and go from there.”
James will need the time off to recuperate, but so too will AT&T Center. There’s no guarantee that the air conditioning will be fixed in time for Game 2, but NBA Vice President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn added a silver lining when speaking with the media:
Well, you know, at this time it is our feeling very strongly that it will be fixed and there will not be a problem. If something were to transpire over the course of, let's say, tomorrow, where we felt maybe we wouldn't be able to play for some reason, then obviously we would look at [a different venue].
But as of right now we feel as I said, very strongly that the condition will be taken care of, and we'll be able to play on Sunday without any problem.
The NBA could look into a different setting if the problem doesn’t get resolved, but it doesn’t appear as if that will be the case.
For Miami, the task at hand will now be knotting the series at one game apiece. That won’t be easy after an unorthodox Game 1. ESPN’s J.A. Adande wrote the following of the performance from Gregg Popovich’s crew:
“The Spurs didn’t outplay the Heat so much as they outlasted them on a sultry Texas night when the AT&T Center air conditioning didn’t work and LeBron James missed seven minutes of the fourth quarter because of cramping in his left leg.”
San Antonio didn’t put everything together until the fourth quarter when James was either hobbled or sidelined. If the Spurs play up to that masterfully efficient standard throughout Game 2, they’ll be near impossible to beat.
At this juncture, everything depends on James’ health. If he’s 100 percent, Miami has just as much of a fighting chance as it did with him through the first three quarters of Game 1.