Brian Murphy: Armchair experts need to leave LeBron James alone

June 8, 2014 

No one is going to weep for LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world and of his generation and the owner of two NBA championships and countless millions of dollars from his contract and endorsements.

But I'll admit I felt bad for James this week.

And I felt bad for the sports-watching public after Game 1 of the NBA Finals - "The Cramp Game" - which had to decide, right then, if James was Cramper of the Year or the Greatest Cramper of All-Time?

With Miami and San Antonio locked in a tight game and the temperature in the gym approaching 90 degrees thanks to faulty air conditioning, James was sidelined for most of the final eight minutes with debilitating cramps. Miami's chances at victory fled with James, the most dominant force in the game.

Instead of sympathy for James, who played the most minutes of any Heat player despite the cramping, or praise for the Spurs, who made an astounding 14 of their final 16 shots and ended the game on a 31-9 run, there was pure mockery of James, who had to be carried off the floor late in the game.

Twitter swelled with pictures of people #lebroning, that is being carried by two others. Couch doctors offered truly helpful advice like drink more water or eat a banana. Brilliant.

Some suggested James isn't tough enough. Many compared him to past champions Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, who, if these critics are to be believed, once played basketball with severed arms and legs and arrows in their backs.

Outside of the ill-advised choice to make his "decision" to leave Cleveland and sign with Miami such a public affair, James has done everything we want our athletes to do. He's gotten better, improving as an outside shooter and a low-post player. He has won - in the NBA and for Team USA in the Olympics. He passes the ball. Teammates enjoy playing with him. He hasn't been in any trouble. He has taken sensible public stands in cases that are important to him (Trayvon Martin and Donald Sterling, in particular).

That's a lot of legacy to digest.

Instead, we get instant mockery by people who only get a cramp when they move too fast for the remote. And clever LeBron James is weak and can't handle the heat memes on the Internet.

"I know I'm the easiest target that we have in sports," James said in an interview with ESPN, one day after "The Cramp Game." "I'm aware of it."

James may be target No. 1, but he's not alone.

This is how we follow sports today.

We mock. We tear down. We look for the conspiracy theory. No one, no matter how many championships they've won, is above it.

There are more forums to spout opinions than there are opinions worth spouting. And those that shout the loudest get heard the most. Thanks, Skip Bayless.

ESPN says: "Embrace debate."

So we've got to take sides, no matter the topic's seriousness or triviality, no matter how much little we actually know about the situation.

Tony Romo can't close.

Johnny Manziel parties too much.

Russell Westbrook shoots too much.

The NCAA is evil. Nick Saban is the greatest. John Calipari is revolutionizing college basketball.

None of the can hold a candle to Jordan or Joe Montana or Jack Nicklaus or Kellen Moore or "my guy," whoever that might be.

This guy's a choker. That guy's not clutch. Fire him. Trade him. Cut him.

What can we turn into a meme or a GIF. Who can we make fun of?

There's no time for nuance or shades of gray.

No time for reasoned thought. You got to have an opinion and you got to have it now.

Now is the time, I guess we've decided, to mock LeBron James.

Until he makes the game-winner in Sunday's Game 2, of course. Then it'll be time to debate whether James is the greatest small forward of all time - and we'll find someone else to mock.

The beat goes on.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @murphsturph

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