I didn't express any on-air doubt that LeBron had a cramp. He obviously did, and once your leg locks up, you're done -- although LeBron did return from an announced cramp in Game 4 of the 2012 Finals to hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:50 left.
No, my first issue was how a superstar athlete plagued by cramps in the past could let himself fall prey to them again when it was clear in warm-ups that something was wrong with the air conditioning. It was LeBron's responsibility to immediately drink more, take salt pills, eat a banana to increase potassium -- whatever it took. Somehow 17 other players played in that sweatbox without cramping. The Heat medical/training staff also deserved some blame -- although a Heat insider speculated that LeBron puts so much pressure on himself for Finals games that anxiety might have contributed to the cramping.
Again, shaky intangibles.
But what compounded the crisis for the Heat was LeBron's body language. He can be such a Drama King. After missing a jumper with about eight minutes left, it wasn't clear whether he was cramping or just gassed as he walked back up court melodramatically waving at coach Erik Spoelstra to sub for him. When he returned with about four minutes left, he soon made a layup but appeared to cramp as he stopped along the baseline, this time waving for assistance. A grimacing LeBron had to be carried all the way to the bench. This is what "they" made fun of on the Internet.
He made such a spectacle of his cramping that it did appear to distract and deflate his teammates, who proceeded to get blown off the floor by the Spurs.
The point: In social media, LeBron isn't treated with nearly the reverence he is by the traditional media. Here LeBron has a point: He just might be the easiest Internet target in sports. He also has brought much of that on himself.
Of course, media colleagues have accused me of inciting Internet riots with my on-air criticism. But maybe "they" don't need me to tell them what they already know. Maybe non-Heat and non-LeBron fans are quicker to sense how shockingly fragile his psyche can be for a player so astonishingly gifted.
Fact: LeBron still has made only three buzzer-beaters in his career, a 2-point jumper at Golden State in 2009, the 3-pointer off an inbounds pass against Orlando in the 2009 playoffs and the layup that beat Indiana in last year's playoffs. Hence my longtime stance that he wasn't born with the "clutch gene." (In my opinion, he still shies away from having to shoot two stand-alone free throws to tie scores, as he did when he opted not to go up strong against Roy Hibbert in the final seconds of this year's Game 5 at Indiana.)
Fact: LeBron bizarrely froze up in a home Game 5 against Boston in 2010.
Fact: LeBron froze up so stunningly in the 2011 Finals against Dallas that even Stephen A. Smith agreed with me that LeBron had qualified as the "mentally weakest superstar ever."
Fact: LeBron had three Finals games last year that resembled the last three quarters of Tuesday night's game, when he went inexplicably passive on offense. Then, after a spectacular burst early in the fourth quarter of Game 6, LeBron came apart, committing three uncharacteristic turnovers in the final six minutes and missing the 3 to tie the game with seven seconds left.