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LeBron James: The most criticized man in the NBA

by Erik Horne Published: June 6, 2014
LeBron James’ chances of playing for the Thunder? About the same as playing for the Tulsa 66ers, says Thunder writer Anthony Slater. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
LeBron James’ chances of playing for the Thunder? About the same as playing for the Tulsa 66ers, says Thunder writer Anthony Slater. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Text from last night: “I know for a fact KD would be getting the same treatment if he came out of the game for cramps in that situation.”

WRONG! So, so wrong. I love this friend of mine, but that’s just not true.



As LeBron James was helped off the court last night with a bout of the cramps, everyone had an opinion (even Gatorade). Many of those opinions were critical of James not playing down the stretch as the Spurs blew the Heat’s doors off in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

But some took the side of the world’s best player. Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas, who played through injury himself many moons ago, came to James’ defense following Game 1, as did others.

No one takes unwarranted criticism more than James. That’s why I bristled when my friend said Kevin Durant would receive the same treatment had he limped off unable to play. Not even Russell Westbrook — who people love to criticize — would have been bashed as badly as James was last night on social media.

Darnell Mayberry wrote as much about CrampGate in his NBA Finals nuggets – a great game was unfortunately overshadowed by something that has crippled anyone who’s ever played sports before. It just happened to happen to the greatest player in the game — who also happens to be the most polarizing — on the greatest stage.

Oh, and this isn’t the first time this has happened. To borrow from Mayberry once again:

LeBron has had a history of cramping, the issue even showing up in these playoffs. But what we saw tonight reminded me of what we witnessed from LeBron in Game 4 of the 2012 Finals against the Thunder. He cramped up then, too. Only that time, he was able to overcome his disruption and hit a critical, tie-breaking 3-pointer with just under three minutes remaining to help the Heat to an eventual 104-98 win. How quickly we forget.



That was Russell Westbrook’s 43-point game, but LeBron was the story, cramps be damned. James didn’t finish that game either, but fell a rebound shy of a triple double (26 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds) and the Heat took a 3-1 lead in the series.

Thursday night was different, and didn't make basketball fans look very classy. We’d give anyone else in the NBA a pass in such a situation — Kevin Durant included.

LeBron’s not anyone else.

by Erik Horne
Online Sports Editor
Erik Horne joined The Oklahoman as a sports web editor/producer in September 2013, following a five-year stint at The Ardmoreite (Ardmore) – first as a sports writer, then sports editor. At The Ardmoreite, Horne reported on everything from prep...
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