By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
SAN ANTONIO – There’s been some strange happenings inside the AT&T Center. In 2009, Manu Ginobili swatted a bat out of mid-air during a game, then captured it with his bare hands and carried it off the court. His reward was a battery of rabies shots.
Just last month, the Portland Trail Blazers were startled by a snake slithering around in the visiting locker room.
Go way back to 1994 and the San Antonio Spurs’ opener at their former home, the Alamodome, and the infamous water canon assault. As reported by the San Antonio Express-News: “A water canon, set off by pregame fireworks, spewed thousands of gallons of water, drenched and scattered fans, soaked the court and delayed the start of the game for 50 minutes.”
Still none of those oddities reached the level of mayhem as Thursday’s air-condition-free Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The game was played without AC due to an electrical problem turning the AT&T Center into a stifling sweatbox that players from the Spurs and Heat won’t soon forget.
“It wasn’t so much the heat, it was just exhaustion,” Miami forward Chris Bosh said. “I thought I played like 45 minutes and I played like 33. It was a hell of an experience, man.”
The more than 18,000 fans in attendance were practically in sync fanning themselves with whatever they could find. Heat star LeBron James cramped up so severely with four minutes left in the game that he couldn’t finish the game.
“It was definitely hotter than normal,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. “We were all sweating a lot more than normal. We made it through.”
Afterward, the Spurs opened their locker room on a limited basis because the heat was so stifling. General manager R.C. Buford was in the hallway with his blue dress shirt drenched front-to-back in sweat. The room designated for the Spurs players’ wives, children and other family members to retreat during games was filled with small children and babies stripped down to their diapers.
“It’s the NBA Finals, it’s one of the best events in the world and if you would have told me there was no working AC I probably would have thought you were joking,” Bosh said. “But it was a really dangerous situation for the players and the fans as well. Everybody was at risk, it was extremely hot in there. I’m sure the people up in the 300 level were even hotter than we were.”
James said he was still in considerable pain Friday morning as his muscles began to uncoil. Other players expressed a greater sense of fatigue, while others recovered more quickly.
“I was a little tired during the game, a little more than usual, but this morning I kind of feel the same,” Spurs forward Boris Diaw said. “It’s back to normal.”
Diaw said he and the Spurs’ other European players weren’t as affected as much because they’re used to playing in overseas arenas without air conditioning during July and August. Still, Diaw acknowledged that this was the hottest he had experienced any NBA arena.
Bosh said he was little more worse off.
“Today sucks, it was tough sleeping last night, but I’ve been tired like this before,” Bosh said. “It’s just going to take us some time to recoup, and we’ve got two days to do that, so that’s a positive.”