LeBron is no sissy, cramps can lay the best athlete low

Cllay Moyle and Caleb Moyle for column



I haven’t been following the NBA playoffs much so far. I just haven’t had as much interest in the NBA since Howard Schmuck sold the Sonics to that bunch from Oklahoma City and they made off with our team.

But, I was flipping through the channels to kill a few minutes the other night and landed on game one of the finals between the Spurs and Heat. As the cameras panned the crowd I could see everyone fanning themselves and I heard the commentator say that the San Antonio arena’s air conditioning was broken and temperatures on the floor had reached 88 degrees.

It was a very close ballgame with about nine minutes left, and looked like it might be the kind of game that could go right down to the wire so I decided to watch it for a bit. Then, with 7:31 remaining in the game, the Heat’s leader, LeBron James, pulled up lame and called for a substitution. He was suffering from muscle cramps.

A muscle cramp is defined as a strong, painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. A leg muscle cramp is also often called a charley horse.

The cause isn’t always known but the condition may be brought on by any number of causes including exercising and overuse of muscles, becoming dehydrated, or not having enough minerals in your blood.

The Heat coach, Eric Spoelstra, immediately called a timeout so James could receive some treatment in an effort to keep him in the game, but James determined he couldn’t continue and his teammates returned to the floor without him. While he continued to receive treatment, the Spurs went on a 15-4 run that turned the game in their favor.

LeBron made a brief return, and even managed to score a bucket, but was clearly suffering from cramping, his effectiveness was limited, and he exited the game for good with 3:59 remaining, and the Spurs won going away.

It’s interesting to read the various comments concerning this issue the day after the game. For example, I visited the Deadspin Website and reviewed a number of tweets from various individuals. One questioned LeBron’s heart. Another mentioned an NHL player on the Boston Bruins finishing his shift on a broken leg while LeBron couldn’t fight through the cramping and questioned his manhood.

Even Jonathan Martin, the offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, who left his team this past year because of bullying, got in the act and tweeted “C’mon bruh. Drink a Gatorade & get out there.”

On the flip side, Mike Golic, a former NFL defensive lineman and co-host of the popular ESPN sports radio show Mike & Mike, came to James defense and said that once a muscle cramps the pain is excruciating and there nothing you can really do until the problem has been resolved.

Personally, I’d side with Golic’s viewpoint on the matter.

I’ve experienced cramping in the form of both hamstring and calf muscle cramps many times over the years. In fact, just a week ago I was awoken out of a sound sleep at 4:00 a.m. with an incredibly painful cramp in my right calf muscle. There’s nothing worse than having it strike during your sleep because it always seems to take a few seconds for you to realize what’s happening and wake up to address it. By then, it’s more difficult to alleviate the pain because it seems as though the cramp has really set in.

More often than not, I can usually attribute the cramping to a failure to hydrate, or rehydrate properly.

There have also been a number of occasions where I’ve suffered a hamstring or calf muscle cramp during a basketball game over the years. On two separate occasions, I can clearly recall finishing the last two to three minutes of high school ballgames with cramps. Both times, I was forced to painfully limp around all over the floor while trying to contract my leg in an opposite direction in an effort to limit the pain produced by the tightening muscle. It’s happened more times than I can remember.

As you can imagine, one’s effectiveness in terms of outmaneuvering a defender or guarding an offensive player in that type of situation is drastically reduced.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it can be done. It’s possible to play through a muscle cramp. I’ve done it on a number of occasions.

But, based on personal experience I don’t believe it’s really possible to play that well in terms of one’s level of productivity. And in LeBron’s case, he’d be trying to complete against elite athletes while suffering from a severe disadvantage.

So, while some may choose to question James heart for pulling himself out of that ballgame, my own view is that as great a player as he is I have to believe he wouldn’t have been very effective under those conditions. Knowing what I know about cramps, I’d rather have a player on the floor with two fully functioning wheels.

My guess is that going forward, the Heat will pull out all stops to ensure LeBron doesn’t suffer another incident of cramping in this series and he will be the best hydrated player on the floor the rest of the way.