Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) is helped from the court by guard Mario Chalmers (15) and guard Dwyane Wade (3), Erik Spoelstra, front right, and Rashard Lewis, right rear. The real question is why did Spoelstra keep his suit jacket on when he’s clearly drenched in sweat? It was 90 degrees in the Spurs’ arena. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

With four minutes left in Game 1 of the NBA finals, King James was forced to abdicate.

Sporting a grimace that looked even more horrifying in high definition — it really erases all mystery, doesn’t it? — LeBron James grabbed his leg in pain. He had to be carried off the court and he watched the Heat lose, 110-95, to the Spurs Thursday night in a sweltering San Antonio arena that was reportedly 90-plus degrees because the air conditioning stopped working.

Given James’s stature as one of the most divisive players in the NBA, Twitter did not miss an opportunity to mercilessly get its licks in, criticizing James for being soft. There were comparisons to Michael Jordan: He played with the flu! He played with food poisoning! He’ll probably play half-filled with embalming fluid! There were comparisons to Kobe Bryant: He made free throws with a torn Achilles!


James sits on the bench after leaving Game 1 of the NBA finals against the San Antonio Spurs. (EPA/ASHLEY LANDIS CORBIS OUT)

Even Gatorade had some fun with James, who has an endorsement deal with Powerade:

Magic Johnson was the classy old head, reliving his glory days:


But he wasn’t mean about it, and wished James well because he wants to see him playing through the rest of the finals. Even with his premature exit, James, who has never won Game 1 of the finals on the road, still led with 25 points. Many times, cramps are chalked up as a result of poor conditioning or dehydration, but some athletes are just affected by them more than others. It’s easy to pile on when it comes to injuries that stem from heat exhaustion; there’s no blood, there’s no exposed bone. The camera doesn’t even capture the athlete landing on a crucial body part at an unnatural and obviously painful angle. You just see a man doubled over with a pained look on his face because his body’s locked up. The glaringly obvious word association problem doesn’t help. “Cramp” brings to mind “menstrual cramp” which means that James is like a woman, and ipso facto James = sissy, right?



There were those who rushed to defend James from a fleet of couch-potato dilettantes:

Including a few professional athletes:

And then there were the memes, which were mostly harmless, and just plain funny: