When LeBron limps, critics spring

"It was the shot I wanted," he says. "It was the opportunity I wanted. I live with that. I slept like a baby that night. We've had so many games where we are successful and not successful. That helps. We've been at this awhile. I relished that opportunity. I'll take the baggage that comes with failing as long as I can be in that situation. No problem. I want that situation. I'll take the success, and I'll take the failure. I'll take what comes because I just wanted to be in that situation, in this situation."

This is how the strongest survive over time, whether it be in the jungle or on the basketball court, developing something between a numbness and an immunity to the things that might kill a weaker species. Bosh literally shrugs his shoulders now about missing the kind of shot he never even got to take deep in the playoffs his first seven years toiling more quietly in Toronto.

And if Bosh -- the most picked-on member of the Heat, the guy who collapsed in a hallway crying after the NBA Finals loss in Year 1 of this experiment, the guy who scored zero points in last year's Game 7 -- has developed this particular immunity, can you even imagine the hardening armor that has now grown around the man who scored 37 points in that same Game 7?

America's howling laughter, once a feared monster, has now shrunk into a fly around an elephant's tail -- not because the noise hasn't grown but because the elephant has. This angry jealousy and irrational hatred that surrounds Miami today, that surrounds James today, has been around his team for four years straight without a lot of rest. So now the Heat has been wallowing and marinating in it again for the past three loud days, but this team, as Bosh said, has learned to sleep peacefully in this dangerous neighborhood's surrounding sirens. They chose to live here, and have grown comfortable with the uncomfortable.

And what you heard after Game 1 was uncomfortable, all right. Twitter was abuzz name-calling and character smearing of James. Female dog. Female body part. No balls. Little girl. Menstrual cramps. Made you wonder who those angry Twitter users hated more -- LeBron or women. The whole thing was ugly and foul and odd, given that we usually give a pass to the champion who has disproven us even once, never mind twice, and then we move on to the Tony Romos and Dwight Howards and Carmelo Anthonys because the angry math is always in the bitter critic's favor with so many more losers than winners in sports every year.

But the rules are different for James in 2014. Tony Parker can leave an important playoff game on the road in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals without anyone questioning his toughness (and he's French!). The league's MVP gets less noise and hostility for being eliminated from the playoffs than James gets for leaving and losing Game 1 of a Finals Kevin Durant has only played in once. Consider how much empathy and compassion would have poured forth if poor, unlucky Timmy Duncan -- four-time champion, mind you -- had gotten those same cramps that short-circuited James at the end of that same game.

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