There are some things in sports you can’t understand from a press box. Some things, you have to be in the game to get, one of those is injuries. When a player goes down, the only barometer for the severity of the injury is the behavior of those around him. A bad injury, and you can see it on the faces of the players on both teams, it’s not hard to identify.
So when I see a player limp to glory, or find salvation in a triumphant return, it’s hard to judge how heroic it is. I’ve watched my favorite basketball player get taken off the court in a wheelchair (Paul Pierce), and even then I didn’t believe him. There’s a sense, a lot of the time, that the player’s dramatic antics are embellished. Why wouldn’t an audience that’s forced to watch flop after flop believe that they’re watching another?
So when I saw LeBron James hobble his way to a historic 3-point shot that sent the Heat into a win that likely sealed a championship, I understood the gratitude of the shot, but not of the injury. It’s the same reaction I have when I see Ben Roethlisberger limp to the line of scrimmage, or footage of Dirk Nowitzki fighting through illness to beat last year’s Heat. It isn’t that I don’t believe the players, I’m sure LeBron did cramp, but the endless sentiment we place on injury-riddled performances is the same as the way we fawn over quarterbacks who set a block. It’s part of your job, and even though your coach may give you a little extra credit, there’s no reason for crowds to immortalize you in Gatorade commercials and GIFs circulating twitter. Enough of the fan-fare surrounding limps and illnesses, this is professional sports, and playing through pain is as professional as you get.