Michael Jordan had the flu game once upon a time, and though cramps are barely in the same ballpark as the flu, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James may have come one step closer to MJ's legacy with his performance on Tuesday night.
That isn't the opinion of yours truly, but there are some very smart people in the basketball media comparing the night James overcame leg cramps to score 26 points and dish out 12 assists as he led Miami to within just one game of an NBA championship. Chief among those in the media making the comparison is Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen.
They will enter Game 5 here Thursday with a 3-1 lead, with thanks to a couple of point guards who rarely are allowed to handle the ball, and with thanks as well to the last two years that have galvanized Miami to deal with the leg cramps that brought James down Tuesday night. After he lost his balance and watched his teammates stop Derek Fisher from turning his turnover into a free basket, James pushed himself up, caught a pass from Mario Chalmers and finished it off the backboard. Then he limped back downcourt and 20 seconds later was hobbling to the bench for a time out, during which he laid himself out along the ground in pain.
Someday James may be able to look back on this ending as the strangest kind of favor to his damaged reputation. Michael Jordan overcame the flu once to win a game in the Finals, and maybe, in less dramatic tones, they'll talk about the night James recovered from painful leg cramps to make a huge three that finished the big turn he has been navigating for himself and his vilified franchise over this long redemptive season.
This seems more along the lines of the Paul Pierce wheelchair game than the Michael Jordan flu game, personally, but there's no doubt LeBron played a very good game that deserves to be remembered somewhere in history. Unless the Heat end up losing their next three games, of course -- then LeBron's legacy will never change.
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