Like many, I usually make a point not to watch First Take on ESPN. The hyperbolic statements, boring format and excessive Skip Bayless are usually enough to give me a splitting headache within five minutes. But today curiosity got the best of me.
You see, last night, Skip Bayless was quite vocal on Twitter after LeBron James was forced to exit the Heat's game against the Spurs due to cramps.
Yes, Bayless' job is to stir up the pot, but criticizing a player for not being physically incapable of playing during a game was even over the top by his standards. Out of an unfortunate curiosity, I decided to watch First Take on Friday morning and jot down some of the more ridiculous things that Bayless had to say about LeBron James. Surrounded by a supportive hoard of San Antonio fans, who sadly seem to have adopted him as one of their own, Bayless uncorked the nonsense below. Please read with care if you have a weak gag reflex.
"I'm afraid that I might not be able to finish today's show out here in this San Antonio heat. I might cramp up."
"I'm never quite sold on his mental toughness... 17 players toughed it out and only LeBron James cramped."
Cramps aren't connected to mental toughness in any way, shape or form. That is not how human anatomy works. It's not really even close to how human anatomy works.
"He clearly cramped, but everyone knew early in that game that you're going to need to hydrate like crazy."
As Samer Kalaf of Deadspin pointed out, studies have indicated that dehydration is not necessarily directly linked to cramps. But who can blame Bayless, a TV personality who presumably should have multitudes of researchers at his disposal to make sure he makes accurate statements on air, for not knowing that? Regardless, why does the way LeBron got the cramps matter? It happens to a lot of people for various reasons. It's probably no coincidence that some of LeBron's biggest defenders on Twitter last night happened to be athletes who have suffered from cramps during a game.
"This was a classic lack of intangibles on LeBron James' part, he wasn't there when his team needed him most."
Two straight NBA titles and Finals MVP awards. Four-time league most valuable player. Eight-time All-NBA first team. Yes, LeBron must really lack intangibles, Skip. It should also be noted that last night James became the third player in NBA history (along with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant) to record 4000 points, 1000 rebounds, and 1000 assists during the playoffs. But yeah, never mind that, guy is never there for his team.
"Michael Jordan played through his classic Finals flu game, and LeBron James turns into LeCramp last night."
"Do I think in any way, shape or form that if LeBron had stayed healthy throughout the game that Miami would have won the game? I do not."
The Heat were down two points when LeBron exited the game for good with four minutes remaining. The Spurs then went on a 16-3 run with LeBron out of the game to win handily. The suggestion that the best player in the world not being in the game wouldn't have served as a factor in the final outcome is a little bit ridiculous. Even former Spurs player Stephen Jackson appeared on the show later and said you have to give the Heat a chance if LeBron had been in the game.
"Why is it that the world's greatest athlete has had some history of cramping? Who's the blame for that?"
"7 1/2 minutes left, LeBron misses a three from the wing and then as the play went back to the other end, he immediately turned to Spoelstra and says 'take me out coach.' To me... this is showing a little bit of melodramatic mental weakness. And it was more because he was gassed at that point than cramping."
Yes, in the minutes prior LeBron James having to be carried off the court, Dr. Bayless concludes that he must have felt no signs of cramping. LeBron, the guy who has ranked in the top 10 in the league in minutes played per game since his rookie year, was just too tired to play. It makes complete sense that the greatest athlete in the world would just decide not to try during the NBA Finals. This is a completely reasonable opinion to have.
In conclusion, I think that Stephen A. Smith had the most appropriate response to Bayless' comments: