SAN ANTONIO: For the first three rounds of the playoffs, LeBron James ran roughshod over the competition, barging through defenses like child’s play and picking up field goals like they were on sale at bargain prices.
So the Miami Heat was shocked when the two-time reigning NBA finals Most Valuable Player was immobilized by leg cramps and unable to even take a baby step forward late in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s tightly-contested game one of the finals.
“It felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping like that back to the bench,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
James was still feeling the effects of the leg cramps when he met with reporters on Friday (Saturday in Manila), after doctors treated his dehydration and cramping with intravenous drips.
“I am pretty sore right now from the muscle spasms,” said James, but he insisted he will be fine for Sunday’s Game Two.
“I got two and a half bags of IV last night. So obviously I got no sleep.”
The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series by beating the two-time reigning champion Heat 110-95 on Thursday.
But all the talk Friday was about the failed air conditioning system, which caused temperatures to soar to more than 30 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) inside the AT&T Center.
That created huge difficulties for the players, especially James, who has had a career-long problem with staying hydrated in sweltering temperatures.
“It was extreme conditions. I never played an NBA game like that with the heat. I sweat a lot . . . This used to happen to me a lot in high school. I [have]been tested for it.”
James has taken some flack in social media circles over the incident.
Fans using the hashtag #Lebroning posted pictures of themselves on Twitter pretending to have leg cramps.
And American sports drink company Gatorade Co. mocked him on their twitter feed, though they later apologized.
Gatorade is the official sports drink of the NBA since 1984, but James endorses their competitor Powerade.
Gatorade deleted the tweets Friday and said it was sorry.
“We got caught up in the heat of the battle. As a longtime partner of the Miami Heat, we support the entire team,” Gatorade said in a statement.