Criticizing officials is in fashion.
A day after Joey Bosa spoke out about the NFL officiating, LeBron James had his words for NBA referees.
James tweeted some arguably critiquing on Monday. His tweet was in response to a fan conspiracy theory that the NBA is taking care of the Lakers and willfully ignoring fouls against them. The aforementioned fan cited Sunday’s victory over Los Angeles by the Philadelphia 76ers as an example.
The Lakers had possession in the final seconds of the game while losing 113-112. Russell Westbrook drove past Joel Embiid from the left wing. He attacked the basket, but fell foul, and the 76ers held on for the one-point victory.
Video replay shows Embiid grab Westbrook’s right wrist as the Lakers guard drives to the basket. A fan tweeted a slow-motion close-up of the contact in a post asking, “Why is the NBA trying to make sure the Lakers lose?”
To be fair, that’s a clear violation. It was hard to see in real time, but the replay is hard to argue with. Westbrook agreed after the game.
“I was trying to get my arm up,” Westbrook told reporters. “I couldn’t raise my hand to shoot because he grabbed it. But it’s all right.”
Somehow, the NBA disagreed, even with the benefit of replay and the accountability of its final two-minute report. A report released Monday said Embiid did not foul Westbrook.
“Embiid (PHI) extends his arm slightly before tucking it in and makes marginal hand contact with Westbrook (LAL) during a driving shot,” the L2M report said.
That’s a generous definition of “marginal hand contact” and the kind of answer tailored to feed the conspiratorial wing of NBA fans. The league got this wrong on the floor and again after review. It’s not great.
This predictably upset Lakers fans and prompted James to get involved. Another fan responded to the above tweet and video asking, “How is this not a huge scandal?” That’s where James stepped in with his Twitter response that didn’t dispute the original premise that the NBA wanted to get the Lakers. It also included direct criticism of the officiating in the NBA.
“And all year they tell me to my face on the court, ‘I didn’t see that’ or ‘It wasn’t a foul,'” James wrote. “It seriously makes no sense to me! Frustrating as hell! Anyway, keep it up, team!”
It’s easy to see how James would be frustrated and willing to risk punishment by citing the error. But co-signing the conspiracy theory that the NBA doesn’t want the Lakers and James to win is next level. Does he really believe the league doesn’t want its most marketable glamor franchise and biggest superstar to win and is actively taking steps to ensure they lose?
We will patiently wait for the NBA’s response.