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.
LeBron cramped up late. https://t.co/7PitpcE106
— Complex (@ComplexMag) June 6, 2014
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!
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:
The Heat & Spurs players found out what is was like to play in the Finals at the Boston Garden during the 80’s! — Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) June 6, 2014
The Spurs & Heat fans thought that was hot, ’84 we played 4 games, ’85, 3 games & ’87 , 3 games in the Boston Garden with those same temps! — Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) June 6, 2014
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:
Lebron, I ran a 12 minute mile in junior high so let me tell you a thing or two about preventing cramps… — Good Bull Hunting (@GBHunting) June 6, 2014
I scored the most basket hoops in 6th grade gym class. Allow me to telly you why Lebron is a total wuss, — RAD GOGGLES DOG (@Phylan) June 6, 2014
What are we arguing? That LeBron chose to have cramps? That he could have played through them if he were “tougher” and “grittier”? — Morgan Campbell (@MorganPCampbell) June 6, 2014
The Lebron jokes are funny, but lets be real….most of ya’ll can’t even walk up the stairs & talk at the same time. — Kennelia Stradwick (@Kennelia) June 6, 2014
Including a few professional athletes:
Wow. Looking at people’s comments on LeBron James cramping up is really making me question my faith in humanity. — Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) June 6, 2014
ANY person seriously saying Lebron should have played through full leg cramps bc Jordan played with flu has NEVER been an athlete EVER…. — Donte’ Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) June 6, 2014
Anyone criticizing Lebron over not playing through muscle cramps either isn’t an athlete or has never had a muscle cramp.It’s incapacitating — Chris Masters (@ChrisMasters310) June 6, 2014
And then there were the memes, which were mostly harmless, and just plain funny:
Lebron Inbox going crazy! pic.twitter.com/OY9w0llV9u
— Them Vines Tho. (@BlackVines_) June 6, 2014