CHICAGO - Dehydrated and throwing up incessantly, Michael Jordan soldiered on and carried the Chicago Bulls to victory despite having the flu in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.
After blowing his Achilles in an April 12, 2013 game against the Golden State Warriors, the late Kobe Bryant ignored the excruciating pain and still shot two free throws before getting medical attention.
LeBron James, meanwhile, lamely retreated to the shelter of the locker room when there was still 5:43 to go in the fourth quarter and the Lakers were getting disemboweled by the Phoenix Suns, 105-73.
The man who bragged about having "broad shoulders" that were ready to "carry" his team in the looming absence of the injured Anthony Davis apparently did not have the stomach to stick around when the going got rough.
Before his brazen, shameful early exit, LeBron was already sitting alone on the far side of the Lakers bench, a lonely island of one, stewing on a grief-stricken season that is about to mercifully end in 48 hours.
The King has no clothes. The defending champ turned into a chump. He showed less balls than table tennis and manifested the kind of leadership that inspires mutiny within the ranks.
Look, I understand LeBron's frustration. In times of stress and distress, the propriety of the mind surrenders to emotion.
A.D. was confined to the bench, wearing a t-shirt, not a jersey. Dennis Schroder and Alex Caruso went 3-for-17 from the field and the Lakers hit only 29 of 84 shots overall, including just 12-for-35 behind the arc.
Phoenix, on the other hand, was on fire and cooled off only after Game 5 was beyond reach, up 92-63 after three quarters.
Devin Booker sizzled with 30 points while reserves Camron Payne and Cam Rixhardson dazzled for a combined 27. Mikal Bridges added an injurious 13 to the insult.
It must have been sickening, painful to endure for poor Lebron to witness his kingdom going up in Suns flames.
But that's part of an athlete's orbit, a life NBA players chose where there is a promise that demands to be kept among a group of men in one locker room.
I take thee to be my teammate, to have and to hold from tip-off until the final horn, to play hard whether leading or trailing, to love and cherish in good health and in injury, till routs do us part.
LEBRON BROKE THAT SACRED VOW.
He can throw a punch and is prone to flexing his muscles while belting a feral roar after a dunk or a made 3 during prosperous times.
But this mercenary Laker, who left Cleveland a second time in 2018 to cavort with a brittle, injury-prone young All-Star star, who is now a useless participant in the proceedings, can't take an old-fashioned smackdown.
And so he left. leaving his minions in the deafening, unholy din of 16,163 screaming fans inside Phoenix Suns arena.
MJ would never abandon his supporting cast. He'd stick around for the humiliation, take mental notes, and then use it as fuel to burn the enemy the next time they meet.
Kobe was the same. He took his lumps, and while he could be hard on some peers, he would always willingly, courageously run through a wall.
With them. For them.
LeBron is no GOAT.
Shy as a kitten, maybe. Perhaps even a crybaby,
Suns in 6.