Miami's LeBron James
had one message for his critics on Friday: Bring it on. (Greg Nelson/SI)
SAN ANTONIO -- With his hands full battling the Spurs in the Finals, LeBron James avoided opening up a second front by dismissing criticism directed his way by Gatorade's Twitter account.
Left leg cramps forced the Heat's All-NBA forward from action during San Antonio's 110-95 victory in Game 1 on Thursday. The unfortunate and untimely development led many fans to crack jokes on Twitter at James' expense, given the huge stakes and historical implications of this year's Finals rematch against the Spurs.
The reaction to James' departure during crunch time went to a different level, though, when Gatorade's official Twitter account sent out a number of messages regarding James, who is an endorser for rival sports drink Powerade.
"The person cramping wasn't our client," the @Gatorade Twitter account wrote. "Our athletes can take the heat."
Later, the Gatorade account added: "We were waiting on the sidelines, but he prefers to drink something else."
The Associated Press reported Friday that Gatorade apologized for the messages.
''Our apologies for our response to fans' tweets during [Thursday] night's Heat vs. Spurs game,'' Gatorade said in a statement. ''We got caught up in the heat of the battle. As a longtime partner of the Miami Heat, we support the entire team.''
VIDEO: 'Cramp-gate' all the rage at NBA Finals
James' cramping came at the end of an unusual Game 1 in which the AT&T Center's air conditioning system failed. Outside temperatures in San Antonio have topped 90 degrees and the inside arena temperature approached that figure during Game 1.
At the Spurs practice facility on Friday, James spoke at length about his cramps, noting he has suffered from them since he was a high school star. Although he was willing to reveal plenty of details about his recovery -- including the fact that he woke up numerous times on Thursday night to use the restroom after receiving multiple IV bags -- James did not want to address the Gatorade situation.
"I really don't care what people say about me, I don't care about that sports group, the drink group that I'm not even going to say their name," James said dismissively. "I'm not going to give them a light in The Finals. This is about the Spurs and the Heat, and it's not about everybody else. I don't care."
In recent years, James has shut down his social media accounts during the playoffs, so he can focus on Miami's title runs. The Heat are playing in their fourth consecutive Finals and James is seeking his third-straight title and third-straight MVP award.
"Obviously I hear about [the criticism], because I know you guys are going to ask me, so I need to be ready for it," James admitted. "What everybody has to say, you guys should know me by now, I don't care. I really don't."
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Complicating matters: James' teammate and close friend, Dwyane Wade, is a Gatorade endorser. Needless to say, Wade didn't want to touch the touchy subject.
"I have no thoughts on it," Wade said. "LeBron gets criticism all over the place from everybody. Us as athletes, we all do. It's the nature of the beast. It has nothing to do with basketball. It has nothing to do with the Finals."
While members of both the Heat and Spurs came to James' defense, NFL player Jonathan Martin suggested on Twitter that James should "drink a Gatorade and get out there." Other athletes and media members shared jokes and memes involving James' cramps on the social networking site.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was one person who willing to stand up for James in the face of the online criticism. He pointed out that James receives a far greater degree of criticism than the average professional athlete.
"[It's] amazing to me the way he's conducted himself over the years with all the scrutiny," Popovich said. "None of us really understand what that is. He's done it pretty damn well."
James, who said he expects to be "100 percent" for Game 2, offered a simple message to his critics: Bring it on.
"Don't worry, you guys can talk about me as much as you want," he said as he exited the podium on Friday. "I'll be there on Sunday as well. I'm not hiding."
Game 2 is set for the AT&T Center on Sunday with a 9 p.m. ET tip. The Spurs announced on Friday the AT&T Center's air conditioning system has been repaired. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra earlier in the day that the NBA should fine the Spurs if the AC issue recurs in Game 2.