MIAMI -- The play made Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade think back a few years.
When LeBron James was on the receiving end of a hard foul Wednesday, Wade had memories of another teammate who often took a pounding on the basketball court.
"I played with another guy that handled it very well," Wade said. "Shaq, he handled it well. He was just a guy that just got beat down."
Wade, of course, was referring to former Heat center Shaquille O'Neal. Like O'Neal, James is rarely credited for taking punishment during games because of his size. Their builds make it almost impossible for anyone to have sympathy, let alone notice.
"The tough part about LeBron is, a gift for him is he's 6-8, 260 and a curse that he's 6-8, 260," Wade said. "He won't get the certain looks when it comes to hard fouls but other people will. It's unfortunate. Hopefully, nothing ever happens where he gets hurt but he can take it."
Smaller players such as Allen Iverson, Isaiah Thomas and even Wade were admired because of their ability to deal with hard fouls. It was as if they were standing up to bullies in the NBA's land of giants. For James, the effect is the opposite.
He is expected to handle the physicality with ease.
"He's a big, physical specimen," Heat center Chris Bosh said. "We all know that but that doesn't change much. He still fights through a lot. You don't know until you see it night in and night out with this team really the pounding that he takes."
The latest incident occurred against the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 2 of their first-round series in the Eastern Conference playoffs. While driving to the basket, James was fouled hard by Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts. James was hit in the throat by a forearm, falling to the floor and needing a few minutes before heading to the free throw line.
Afterward, James told reporters the play left him struggling to breathe. It was originally classified a common foul before the NBA upgraded it to a Flagrant 2 on Thursday. McRoberts was also fined $20,000.
"I got elbowed in the throat, that's the contact," James said. "It's not a very good feeling, especially how I was attacked in the lane and the contact that happened. I was just trying to catch my breath."
McRoberts later said there was no intent to injure James, but the initial public reaction was more about James exaggerating the pain. It was similar to when James was leveled by New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler on a screen during the 2012 playoffs. It was called a flagrant foul, but James was mostly criticized for flopping.
It was only after replays of the McRoberts foul before most realized the severity of the contact.
"I know a lot (of people) might be disagreeing with a lot of things that happened and his reactions but he gets hit hard," Bosh said. "It's a part of the game. We understand that. Until you get hit across the face or hit in the nose or hit in the throat ... you don't know what it's like."
It was only a few months ago James sustained a broken nose in February against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It happened while dunking over Thunder forward Serge Ibaka. Like the McRoberts play, it was ruled a common foul.
James had to wear a protective mask for five games.
"He just gets up and keeps playing," guard Mario Chalmers said. "It's tough to do. They definitely overlook it. He does a great job of playing through it and not saying anything."
The composure is impressive as James' other talents on the basketball courts. Teammates are often amazed by his ability to avoid retaliation.
"He doesn't get into too many scuffles," Wade said. "He understands the position he is in. It's unfortunate that he gets that kind of beating but I think he handles it as well as you can."
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