LeBron James spoke out about the way he gets officiated on Wednesday night, saying he is starting to get concerned about how physical he believes some opponents are against him.
James made the comments to reporters huddled around his locker in Chicago not long after he and the Miami Heat had their 27-game winning streak snapped, with the Bulls prevailing 101-97. He cited two specific plays he thought merited flagrant fouls, one involving Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter and another by Taj Gibson late in the fourth.
The only flagrant assessed in the game was one against James himself with 3:52 remaining, when the Heat were trying to mount a comeback.
“I’m not sitting here crying about anything,” James said. “I play the game at a high level, I play with a lot of aggression, I understand that some of the plays are on the borderline of a basketball play or not. But sometimes, you know, I don’t know … it’s frustrating.”
Miami’s winning streak was the second-longest in NBA history, ending six games shy of matching the 33-game run set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
James came down 1-on-1 against Hinrich in the opening quarter, and the players collided. Hinrich may have been in position to actually draw an offensive foul on that play, but wrapped his arms around James’ back and appeared to pull him to the ground. Hinrich was called for a blocking foul.
In the fourth, James worked his way through three defenders and was fouled. Referees originally called a flagrant-1 against Gibson, though after review downgraded it to only a common foul. So instead of Miami having two free throws and retaining possession - which could have been huge, given that they were trailing by nine with 4:02 remaining - James only got the two free throws.
He and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra argued to no avail. So on the ensuing Chicago possession, James got a bit of costly revenge, ramming into Chicago’s Carlos Boozer as he attempted to fight through a pick. James was called for the flagrant-1, which was upheld after video review.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade didn’t seem bothered that the 6-foot-8, 260-pound James chose to lash out.
“I’m surprised he ain’t done it before,” Wade said. “A big guy like that, you don’t really want to see him really start trying to inflict pain on other people. He plays the game the right way. It’s unfortunate.”
James often asks referees why he doesn’t get more calls, given that there often is some level of contact whenever he’s around the rim in particular. Wade likened how James gets officiated to the way Shaquille O’Neal was, in that sometimes isn’t always better to be bigger and stronger than just about everyone else.
“It’s tough but that’s why he is who he is,” Wade said. “You have to deal with it. Tonight, he decided to get back a little bit. I didn’t think it was that bad.”
James’ comments will likely be at least reviewed by the league, which could also issue a fine for complaints about officiating.
“I believe, and I know, that a lot of my fouls are not basketball plays,” James said. “First of all, Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground. And the last one, Taj Gibson was able to collar me around my shoulder and bring me to the ground.
“Those are not basketball plays. And it’s been happening all year. I’ve been able to keep my cool and try to tell Spo, `Let’s not worry about it too much,’ but it is getting to me a little bit.”