Michael Jordan had the flu game.
LeBron James had the cramp game.
In Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Jordan scored 38 points while battling a 103-degree fever in the Chicago Bulls’ win over the Utah Jazz.
In Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals, LeBron left in the forth quarter due to cramps in the Miami Heat’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Want to use the difference in production and outcome to hammer LeBron and praise Jordan? I guess that’s your prerogative, though it seems silly to equate two very different health concerns.
But if you’re going to use Jordan’s flu game to bash LeBron, let’s talk about Game 4 of the 1997 NBA Finals.
It would later be learned that a Bulls team assistant had mistakenly replaced the players’ Gatorade with GatorLode, a heavy drink used for building carbs. “It was like eating baked potatoes,” explained trainer Chip Schaeffer. Down the stretch, Chicago’s players complained of stomach cramps and Jordan even asked to sit for a time, something he never did at a key moment.
Circumstances out of the players’ control? Check.
Asking out of an NBA Finals game? Check.
Just as LeBron couldn’t do anything about the lack of air conditioning in San Antonio, Jordan couldn’t control for the team team assistant. The results and effect were the same.
Was Jordan mentally tougher than LeBron? Probably. Jordan is likely the fiercest competitor in NBA history.
But cramps can temporarily debilitate even those whose will to win is unquestioned.