Thanks to an electrical failure that shut down the arena’s AC, Lebron James had to twice head to the bench in the final quarter because he was cramping.
NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar knows firsthand what it’s like to play in heat, under unbearable conditions. He played it, and he lived to tell about it.
As Abdul-Jabbar put it: “Some people blame LeBron James, accusing him of wilting like a hothouse orchid.”
“Detractors have pointed out that pro football players battle it out in heat, rain, snow, and sleet. They slosh through sticky mud, slip on icy turf, suffocate in oven-like helmets under a blistering sun. Those same people wonder how lame it is that the $19 Million Dollar Man pulls up, well, lame just because the air-conditioning falters. Those people don’t know what they’re talking about,” he wrote in Time.com.
“The average pro football game lasts 3 hours and 12 minutes. But, according to a Wall Street Journal study, only 11 of the minutes are actual play. The rest is commercials, huddling, standing around, calling out plays, and jock adjusting,” Abdul-Jabbar said, comparing NFL to the NBA.
“An NBA game is 48 minutes and, while they also spend some time huddling and adjusting, most of those 48 minutes are spent running up and down a 94-foot court. Again and again. Believe me, under those conditions, the heat can be a significant factor.”
“I played a Championship Finals game in 100-degree heat against the Celtics in 1984. The Boston Garden didn’t have air-conditioning at the time and Boston was in the middle of a hellish heat wave. I was 37 at the time (eight years older than LeBron is now), so the heat might have affected me a little more than the younger players. At one point during the game I was given oxygen as a precaution,” Abdul-Jabbar recalled.
“How does it feel to play in that heat? Here’s what I said at the time, with my typical charm: “I suggest that you go to your local steam bath, do 100 push ups with all your clothes on, then try to run back and forth for 48 minutes. The game was in slow motion. It was like we were running in mud,” he wrote.
“The Celtics won that series in the seventh game. We didn’t sit around blaming the heat. We blamed Larry Bird for playing so phenomenally,” he said. “In fact, that loss in the Boston Oven, I mean Garden, only fueled us to come back the next year and beat the Celtics in the Finals, for the first time in Laker history.”
Abdul-Jabbar agrees that maybe the Miami Heat would’ve won if the air-conditioning hadn’t broken.
“But why even ask that question? Injuries are part of every sport. LeBron could have twisted his ankle, torn his ACL, or any of a dozen other common injuries. His particular kryptonite was heat,” he wrote.
He went on to write that the real winner here is the NBA.
“They couldn’t have asked for more—except a guaranteed seventh game—to add drama to the Finals. And, of course, bigger drama usually equals bigger ratings,” he noted.
Abdul-Jabbar has set history by remaining the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and becoming the lone NBA player to compile both six NBA championships and six MVPs through a 20-year span with the Milwaukee Bucks and the LA Lakers.
Jabbar was a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member.
In 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. Abdul-Jabbar played 1560 games in the NBA, averaging 24.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg in 36.8 mpg.Follow @exnbadotcom
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