As fans around the world clash over the severity of LeBron James’ leg cramps and the steamy conditions in Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals, take a moment to remember the awesomeness of Larry Bird.
Bob Ryan reminds us of Bird’s epic performance in Game 5 of the 1984 Finals. It was a mere 97 degrees in the Garden that day.
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
Here’s an excerpt from Ryan’s column in 2009:
Referee Hugh Evans had to leave at halftime, a victim of dehydration. Robert Parish sat out a stretch of the second half with leg cramps. But there was one player who applied mind over matter better than everyone else, one player who not only overcame the circumstances to play a good game of basketball, but who so took to the conditions that he played one of the great games of his life.
As my mother used to say, I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.
“I play in this stuff all the time back home, ” sneered Larry Bird. “It’s like this all summer.”
He had just played 42 minutes in Kareem’s sauna. He had scored 34 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, and shot 15 for 20. He even blocked a James Worthy shot. The Celtics had won, 121-103, to take charge of a series they would win in seven, and the man deserving the first, second, and third stars was No. 33.
“The man who made the difference was Bird,” acknowledged Lakers coach Pat Riley. “He was just awesome. He made everything work. He was the catalyst, and that’s what happens when great players come to the front.”
“I’ve never seen him as intense as he was tonight,” said Kevin McHale. “Never.”
Legends don’t cramp.