For the first time in his 19 years as a professional, LeBron James is facing a possible suspension — that is, if the NBA is willing to sideline its biggest star ahead of a nationally televised game in New York on Tuesday.
James was ejected from the Los Angeles Lakers’ win in Detroit on Sunday after bludgeoning Pistons center Isaiah Stewart’s face with his fist and elbow while battling for rebounding position in the third quarter. The bloodied Stewart was also tossed after making several attempts to retaliate against James, who was protected by throngs of security guards and teammates as a potential melee was averted.
Fans and pundits did not hesitate to call for James’s suspension, which would be his first since his senior year of high school in 2003, when he improperly accepted two replica jerseys valued at $845 in violation of Ohio state amateur rules.
‘LeBron needs to be suspended minimum 5 games if we’re being honest,’ one fan tweeted.
‘LeBron should get suspended for punching Beef Stew in the face,’ another tweeted, using a nickname for Stewart. ‘He clearly did it on purpose. Then he ran off like a baby. This is your Goat [Greatest of All Time] people.’
FS1 host Chris Broussard disagreed, arguing that Stewart should get a two-game ban, while James should only be fined: ‘I can see why someone would say the elbow was intentional, but LeBron, in 19 years, has never been viewed as a dirty player.’
Piston’s coach Dwane Casey shared a similar thought after Sunday’s game, saying he does not think James is a ‘dirty player.’
NBA league officials will now review footage of the incident and conduct follow-up interviews to determine whether fines or suspensions are in order. A league spokesman told DailyMail.com that a ruling on the matter will be completed before the Lakers and Pistons play their following games on Tuesday night in New York and Detroit, respectively. By suspending James, the NBA could significantly hurt television ratings for its coast-to-coast Lakers-Knicks broadcast on TNT.
Based on similar incidents, James likely wouldn’t get more than a two- or three-game ban if he does get suspended.
In 2018, then-Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul was suspended two games for poking James’s Lakers teammate, Rajon Rondo, in the eye and throwing punches in the ensuing fracas. Similarly, James’s then-Cleveland Cavaliers teammate JR Smith was suspended for two games for smacking Boston’s Jae Crowder during a 2015 playoff game.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James (right) was ejected from Sunday’s game in Detroit after delivering a brutal blow to the face of Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (left), who was left with a gruesome cut over his right eye
James was instantly ejected after his left elbow and fist struck Stewart during Pistons forward Jerami Grant’s free throw attempt in the third quarter of Sunday night’s game at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit
James’s fist appeared to hit Stewart’s face as the Lakers forward spun around while the two battled for rebounding position
Blood was streaming down Isaiah Stewart’s face after he took a hard blow from LeBron James on Sunday
New York Daily News NBA reporter Kristian Winfield seems convinced that LeBron James will be getting suspended
FS1’s Skip Bayless – a longtime LeBron James critic – argued on Monday’s show that James should get suspended
The question of whether or not James’s elbow was intentional will be an important factor in deciding his suspension
One fan argued that James should get a suspensions of at least 20 games for what he saw as a deliberate punch to Stewart
Naturally, many fans have decided that James’s elbow to Stewart’s face was, indeed, intentional
The question of whether or not James’s elbow was intentional will be an important factor in deciding his suspension.
Many fans have, naturally, already made their conclusions.
‘Unpopular opinion,’ added another. ‘LeBron should be suspended for 20 or more games. That MFer just punched Stewart in the face.
Another added: ‘Lebron should get suspended for a couple of games there is no way he said that’s an accident.’
But not everyone is convinced.
‘This type of tangle happens multiple times every game,’ tweeted former NBA guard Rex Chapman. ‘99% of the time you rip away cleanly from a tangle. This time LeBron didn’t. He’ll likely be suspended. But it’s not an intentional shot to the face. Accident [in my opinion].’
What is clear is that James and Stewart had to be separated multiple times as the frantic game announcer ordered fans to remain in their seats and not attempt to join the scrum. (It was in 2004 at the Pistons previous home court where the infamous ‘Malice at the Palace ‘ took place, in which several Indiana Pacers players fought with Detroit fans.)
Footage from Sunday’s game shows James slamming Stewart in the face with his left arm and fist as they grappled for position during a free throw.
Stewart drops to the court clutching his face, and James appears to acknowledge the collision, turning toward Stewart with his hand extended in an apparent gesture of apology.
A furious Stewart then charged at James, as teammates rushed to pull the two players apart.
Stewart, bleeding profusely around his right eye, grappled with teammates as he tried again and again to charge at James.
Coaches and referees tried in vain to hold Stewart back as he broke free repeatedly.
One Lakers fan joked that LeBron James would suspend the entire league for his ejection in Detroit on Sunday
Former NBA guard Rex Chapman doesn’t believe that James intentionally elbowed Stewart in the face on Sunday night
LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers is ejected from the game during the third quarter of the game against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday
Head coach Dwane Casey of the Detroit Pistons and Cade Cunningham struggle to hold back Isaiah Stewart after he was struck by LeBron James
Coaches and referees tried in vain to hold Stewart back as he broke free again and again and tried to charge at James and exact his revenge
James walks off the court after being ejected from the game for the hit on Stewart
In 2018, Houston’s Chris Paul (No. 3) got a two-game suspension for starting a brawl with James’s Lakers in Los Angeles
Finally, Stewart nodded his head and appeared to agree to head to the locker room, turning to walk toward the tunnel.
But it was a ruse, and Stewart again whirled and charged at James, sprinting up the court as coaches, players and refs hurled themselves at him, clinging to his arms.
Stewart was finally manhandled off the court, and sprinted up the tunnel to the locker room.
Both James and Stewart were ejected from the game by referees.
Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook was also given a technical foul in the incident, although he didn’t realize it until after the game.
‘I got a tech?’ Westbrook asked during his post-game press conference. ‘Why did I get a tech? I didn’t know I got a tech… That’s interesting.’
The Lakers won the game 121-116. In a post-game press conference, Lakers star Anthony Davis insisted that James had not intended to strike Stewart.
‘Stewart tried to defend LeBron, ‘Bron did the same thing. Everyone in the league knows ‘Bron not a dirty guy, he didn’t mean to hit him. As soon as he did, he looked back at him, told him “Oh, my bad, I didn’t try to do it,”‘ said Davis.
Davis slammed Stewart for his on-court antics following the blow to the face.
‘I’ve never, in 10 years, see a player try to do that, what he tried to do,’ he said.
‘It’s uncalled for, you got a cut above your eye, accidental, it wasn’t like it was on purpose,’ added Davis.
Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said after the game that he had spoken to Stewart: ‘He was upset for a reason. I don’t think James is a dirty player, but again it got them going.’
Players separate Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, and Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart, far right center, during Sunday’s game
A ref and coaches hold back Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart after he was hit
LeBron James looks on as he is ejected from the game during the third quarter of the game against the Detroit Pistons
A team spokesman said that James would not be addressing the media following his ejection.
Davis had 30 points, 10 rebounds and two big blocked shots late on Pistons 20-year-old rookie Cade Cunningham. Westbrook contributed 26 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
After calm was restored on Sunday night, Detroit closed the third quarter strong and led 99-84 entering the fourth.
Westbrook and Davis both scored in double figures in the final quarter, leading a rally that gave the Lakers a win to reach .500 this season.
Detroit had the ball with 5.9 seconds left with the chance to potentially tie the game, but Hamidou Diallo turned the ball over and Davis made free throws to seal the victory.
James had 10 points and five assists in his second game back in the lineup. After missing eight games with an abdominal strain, he played Friday night in a 130-108 loss at Boston.
Though he is a polarizing figure, James does not have a reputation for dirty play, and has only been ejected from one other game in his 19-year career, for complaining about a non-foul call.
James was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul for the physical contact, which is more serious than a Flagrant 1 foul, but was not given any technical foul for his on-court behavior after play stopped.
Flagrant fouls come with two penalty points, and if he hits five penalty points this season, James would face an automatic suspension.
Stewart, on the other hand, is facing likely suspension for his behavior on the court after play stopped. All involved are likely to face fines.