In asking yourself what Magic Johnson would have done, just remember all those games of yore when the L.A. Lakers legend endured conditions far more supreme than the 90-plus degree temperatures LeBron James was forced to play through Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, never once requiring assistance from teammates and certainly a trainer to so much as make it back to his own bench.
King James cramped and some might even say choked during the Miami Heat’s 110-95 Game 1 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. And in some ways, it was all so reminiscent of some of James’ earlier struggles when he never seemed quite able to get over the hump when it all mattered the most.
After back-to-back titles and four league MVPs, does James deserve every benefit of the doubt based on how things played out as he looked on during the final minutes of the Heat’s late game meltdown? Without question. But it’s also fair to point out that Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, opposing players at least seven years the four-time league MVP’s senior, were on the court at the end while James was grimacing on the sidelines.
In the aftermath, Erik Spolestra classified it as an unusual environment, but the end results born of James’ disappearance were far more extreme than that. With James out, Danny Green finally checked in for the Spurs, netting 11 of his 13 points and all four of the field goals he scored.
James didn’t speak to the media after the game, but we all know what needs to be said. In the end, this will be a series about perseverance and you know The King will solider on, perhaps even more doggedly than even he did on opening night if he continues on the course he’s set for himself over the last several seasons.
Before even the opening tip, James talked about how he and the Heat felt they were being slighted heading into this year’s rematch and how it was motivating his team to be even more determined and focused. One can only wonder how he will come to feel over the next two days as the question of if he should have played on Thursday night or how the best player in all the land could have ever allowed himself to be in the position he found himself in Game 1 continues to play out.
But James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh won’t panic and they will definitely be in San Antonio come Sunday night, 90-plus degree temperatures be damned. And you can best believe the Big 3 will be bringing the Heat with them.