Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was suspended by the NBA for one game Monday after he hit Detroit Pistons Isaiah Stewart in the face in a game Sunday night as the two fought for a rebound. James seemed to gesture apologetically to Stewart immediately after, but Stewart was having none of it. His brow dripping with blood from James’ blow, Stewart tried again and again to force his way through the refs, teammates and coaches trying to restrain him.
Players from both benches soon became involved, alternately trying to quell the conflict and engage in it.
The Lakers on-air team of Stu Lantz and Bill Macdonald expressed escalating shock on the telecast as the situation progressed.
“That’s nuts,” said Macdonald.
“Yeah, that’s just crazy,” replied Lantz as Stewart rushed in James’ direction for a third time.
Later, Lakers all-star center Anthony Davis said, “I’ve never, in 10 years [in the league], seen a player try to do that.”
Full fight between Isaiah Stewart and the Lakers pic.twitter.com/XP5iDarZQ7
— Playmaker (@playmaker) November 22, 2021
Both James and Stewart were ejected from the game, with James receiving a one-game suspension and Stewart two games. The news was announced by the league this afternoon. It’s only James’ second ejection in his 19-year NBA career.
The official statement from NBA President of League Operations Byron Spruell characterized it thusly: “LeBron James has been suspended one game without pay for recklessly hitting Stewart in the face and initiating an on-court altercation, it was announced today by ”
As for Stewart, Spruell’s statement said, “Isaiah Stewart has been suspended two games without pay for escalating an on-court altercation by repeatedly and aggressively pursuing Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James in an unsportsmanlike manner.”
The following was released by the NBA. pic.twitter.com/blyOFowWQ3
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) November 22, 2021
While the league’s official Two-Minute Report of calls in the last two minutes of the game did not assess blame, it said James was charged with a “Flagrant Foul Penalty 2 for unnecessary and excessive contact above the shoulder” and ejected from the contest. The Lakers’ Russell Westbook was also assessed a technical foul for acting as “an escalator” of the conflict “and not a peace maker.”
After the scrum, the Lakers fell down by as many as 17 points before clawing their way back to win the game.
It’s the second major altercation and suspension in the league this month after reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, of the Denver Nuggets, was suspended for retaliating after a hard foul during Denver’s game with the Miami Heat on November 3.
As the 6’11” Jokic brought the ball up on a fast break, the Heat’s Markieff Morris took a run at the 280-pound Jokic and delivered what looked like a hockey shoulder check at midcourt. Then, as Morris turned his back to walk away, Jokic threw his shoulder into Morris from behind. The Heat player crumpled to the ground.