Miami Heat forward LeBron James is taking a lot of crap for missing the final minutes of Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night after cramping up. The cause of LeBron’s pain? A busted air conditioner, which caused temperatures inside the AT&T Center in San Antonio to rise to 90 degrees. Without James on the floor, the Spurs ran away to a Game 1 win.
The great Bob Ryan, a walking encyclopedia of NBA knowledge, sent out the following tweet Friday morning in response to all the cramping hub-bub:
Big Heat in SA reminds us of ’84 Game 5 with no AC game time Garden temp at 97 and Bird going for 34 and 17 and 15-for-20 from the floor.
— Bob Ryan (@GlobeBobRyan) June 6, 2014
Ryan would know. He was at the game, and the night before he even rode with the Lakers as they arrived to Logan Airport. In 2009, he wrote a column looking back at the game for the Boston Globe. Here’s his description of the conditions in Boston the night before:
Game 4 in Los Angeles had been an epic – truly one of the great games in Celtics playoff history – and now the teams were arriving at Logan Airport late on a Thursday afternoon to find a very different Boston than the one they had left five days earlier. For Boston was in the grip of a heat wave. We’re talking high 90s with accompanying East Coast humidity. Logan Airport was chaotic. There were cars and taxis everywhere. There were people sweating, babies crying, miserable, angry, and frustrated people all over. If you ever saw “The Year of Living Dangerously,” you know what I’m talking about.
The Lakers made it through the airport throng and to the old, sweaty Boston Garden the next day, where CBS announced the temperature at game-time to be 97 degrees. According to Ryan, the Lakers struggled with the conditions.
The Lakers did not like it, and Kareem disliked it most of all. He was 37, and fairly cranky to begin with, and playing a Finals game in 97-degree heat was not his idea of fun. He would shoot 7 for 25 and wind up sucking on oxygen (honest).
Celtics great Larry Bird, meanwhile, didn’t mind the conditions one bit. Bird played 42 minutes (box score) in the swelter, scoring 34 points and adding 17 rebounds. He made 15 of 20 shots from the field. He did all this despite the misery of others around him. Robert Parish missed time with leg cramps. A referee had to leave at halftime due to dehydration.
“I play in this stuff all the time back home, ” sneered Larry Bird. “It’s like this all summer.”
Ryan’s recollection of the game is tremendous and deserves a full read. Bird, of course, is the best.