LeBron's warm welcome in Game 1


SAN ANTONIO -- One thing can be said about the AT&T Center, the San Antonio Spurs' home arena that's set on a plain east of downtown between a golf course, Coca-Cola bottling plant and stockyards for the annual rodeos: You never know what sort of plague might attack next.

Be it bats swooping above the court, snakes in the locker rooms or extreme heat, there's always a potential surprise to shake up the combatants.

Ironically, the surprise that's hardest for LeBron James to handle is the heat, an issue he's confronted several times in his playoff career. Hot arenas can be James' kryptonite. When the air conditioning failed at the arena, it felled him in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, as the Spurs ran away from Miami 110-95.

"It was an unusual circumstance; I never played in a building like that," James said. "It was extremely hot in the building. Everybody could feel it, I was the one who had to take the shot."

This didn't affect everyone the same way.

"It was right in my wheelhouse," Ray Allen said.

"I don't care. I'm from Texas, man. We couldn't afford air conditioning in high school," Chris Bosh said.

"It reminded me of the days at Cameron Indoor at Duke before they got AC," Shane Battier said.

"It felt like I was playing in the European Championship. We never have AC in Europe so it didn't bother me at all," Tony Parker said.

James can do things no one else in the NBA can. He is the envy of his peers for his extreme athletic gifts. But there is no doubt he harbors this particular weakness and it has surfaced in the playoffs before, when spring turns toward summer around the country. He's battled this for years.

The most memorable occurrence was in Game 4 of the 2012 Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, when he was forced off the floor several times with leg cramps before hitting a crucial 3-pointer. But there have been other times in playoffs past as well.

There was a time when James used to carry around a gallon jug of water during the postseason, sipping from it throughout the day.

"Playoff sweat is different from regular-season sweat," he said back in 2011 when he was using that method.

James said he made sure to proceed with his normal routine to store up fluids leading up to the game. When the temperatures reached near 90 degrees on the court in the second half, he reached a critical mass.

As soon as he felt the humidity gathering in the building in the first half, James knew he was in trouble. He tried to load up on fluids at halftime, and there was a bag filled with lids from various drinks next to his locker after the game that provided the evidence. He changed his uniform, and the team's trainers applied ice to his head and neck to attempt to cool down his core.

But it was too late.

"It's something you try to prevent, I got all the fluids I need to get ... I lost all the fluids I was putting in the last couple of days," James said. "It was inevitable for me tonight."

James pulled himself out of the game three times in the second half, twice needing timeouts to stop the action. Eventually he was done for good with cramps all over his body with four minutes to play in a two-point game.

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