The internet is a flame with criticisms of LeBron James having to leave Game 1 of the NBA Finals because of cramping in his legs. Novice nutritionists are blasting James for his “lack of toughness” and for being “soft.”
I strenuously object to this characterization.
Anyone who knows me can vouch that I am far from a LeBron apologist. While I respect his immense talent, and keen sense of marketing, I will never forget LeBron choosing to take the “easier” road to a title and joining with other superstars, rather than trying to gut it out for his home-town team. But, that is neither here nor there. At issue is CrampGate 2014 and whether the self-proclaimed “King” is soft. I say no way.
If you have ever played sports or competed at a high level, there is a good chance at some point in your athletic endeavors you had to deal with cramps. They can be mild or they can disabling and debilitating. What I saw from James last night was a guy who, physically “appeared” human for the first time in his career. The porous conditions with no air conditioning brought him to his knees, literally.
I can not criticize James for bowing out with those cramps. I have had cramps like that before. They can be excruciating. You can’t move. Your muscles lock up, and any attempt to move brings horrible pain. It’s not something to be laughed at or made fun of. I would venture that most of these people ripping James for not playing have never played a day of competitive sports in their lives. They are the same people who look at every opportunity to “tear down.” Heck, I was that guy earlier in my life. It’s ugly, and actually pretty pathetic.
I find it interesting that most athletes who were “tweeting” their reactions to LeBron’s injury were sympathetic. The only criticism I have of James is that he should probably have been more diligent in replenishing his body with potassium and electrolytes. With such airid conditions and temperatures hovering near 90 degrees on the court it’s important to stay hydrated. This isn’t so much on James, but it’s on the training staff for the Miami Heat, who knew the air-conditioning was off since the beginning of the game. If I am the Heat trainer, I have those players constantly replacing fluids AND I have them eating bananas. The potassium that bananas provide would assuredly guard against cramping.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra told media today that his players were trying to stay hydrated and they “were drinking fluids.” That isn’t good enough. These were extraordinary circumstances which required the Heat training staff to be pro-active in trying to prevent the Heat’ players from succumbing to the rare conditions. That is their job.
I still really want the Spurs to win this thing. But, I will not criticize LeBron James for leaving Game 1 because of cramps. I have been there and done that, and it’s nothing to be trivialized.