SAN ANTONIO — As eager San Antonians gathered along the Riverwalk to celebrate the Spurs victory over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, legendary coach and general manager Greg Popovich confirmed a circulating conspiracy theory about the first-game, first-quarter air conditioning failure, which led to Heat superstar Lebron James’ cramping up as temperatures inside the AT&T center soared to nearly 100 degrees.
“What we did worked,” stated Popovich, who is rumored to have a bonus clause in his contract based on using the fewest number of words possible in his terse press conferences. “We shut down Lebron. We have a total team approach to victory, and the conditions in the arena were part of it.”
Assistant general manager R.C. Buford echoed the sentiments of his coach, stating that the approach to controlling James was basically an organizational strategy.
“It was great defense,” Buford added, matching Popovich’s word count in his initial statement. “We put the heat on the Heat, pure and simple. Our intel said that our guys could take it and Lebron couldn’t. Just part of the San Antonio way.”
Details of the shutdown remain unreleased, but an internal source within the Spurs’ facilities department confirmed the plan, revealing the key element to the plot: making sure the air conditioning failed shortly after the start of the game so that tip-off couldn’t be delayed.
“Two hours of prime time on ABC,” the source explained. “No way they can afford a delay to fix it, not with a half minute ad going for almost a half million. We knew that.
Beyond that, it was just a matter of touching base with Pop to make sure our guys would be OK. He assured us it would be fine. He said ‘This isn’t the NFL where you’ve got 400-pound linemen dying from heat stroke.’ ”
The source also confirmed that part of the strategy involved controlling the availability of liquid refreshment to combat the heat and humidity. Competing sports drink companies were quick to criticize one of James’ primary sponsors, Powerade, for failing to help the Heat superstar overcome the cramps after James found himself unable to return to action late in the fourth quarter of the Miami loss.
“That was part of it,” added the source, who has since been promoted to an executive position. “Pop said lose the shipment. The Powerade guy had his truck double parked outside the arena, and he got towed. So that was that.”
Buford also addressed some of the strange events that have marred games at the AT&T Center, including snakes turning up in the locker room and bats launching aerial assaults.
“Life is full of unexpected twists and turns,” he shrugged. “We’re all trained to deal with distractions, and now we’ll turn our attention to the task of repeating and defending our title. But there’s no truth to the rumor that the arena is haunted. Our facilities people have assured us that everything we do goes according to plan.”