LeBron James finished his birthday game screaming at the officials, then went online after the game to yell at them so more.
The Los Angeles Lakers lost in controversial fashion to the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, falling 108-106 after the officials ruled a would-be game-tying basket from James was indeed a mere two-pointer.
The fateful basket came with only a few seconds left. Down 107-104, James caught a pass from Anthony Davis, backed up to the 3-point line and made a long basket that was initially ruled to be worth two points. The officials quickly went to review to decide if James had shot from behind the 3-point line.
After a few minutes, the officials announced the play would stand as called.
James, to put it lightly, was not happy. He responded by repeatedly pointing to the screen and berating the officials for missing what he believed to be an obvious call.
Rather than tie the game, the Lakers were forced to foul Anthony Edwards and didn’t get another shot off. The Lakers fell to 17-16 on the season and 3-7 since winning the NBA’s in-season tournament.
Let’s take a closer look at the call that enraged LeBron James
Was James correct? Well, there was one shot that certainly seemed to show space between his foot and the 3-point line, which soon began circulating on social media, alongside footage of James’ reaction.
Here’s a shot of LeBron’s foot on the jumper that would have tied the game had it been ruled a 3, but was called a two on the floor and confirmed after a long review. Wolves would have still had the ball and a chance to win. pic.twitter.com/hcRv9jGkJ6
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 31, 2023
In reality, however, the officials might have had a point. That picture showed James foot right before he took the shot, but not as he left the ground while taking the shot. A video of his feet shows him moving his weight to the balls of his feet as he jumps off the ground and, crucially, moving the front of his shoes forward a few millimeters.
It’s still really close, but you can see what would make an official uncomfortable turning that basket into a 3-pointer.
The screenshot of LeBron’s foot outside the line serves no purpose because it doesn’t show when the ball left his hands. Here’s a more accurate replay for you to decide. It’s close for sure. pic.twitter.com/tX38xTvQNi
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) December 31, 2023
James didn’t see that way, though. He continued to go after the officials from the locker room, pointing to the earlier screenshot:
“It’s obviously a 3. My foot was behind the line. You can see the space in between the front of my foot and the 3-point line. You can clearly see the wood on the floor between the front of my foot and the 3-point line. Stevie Wonder could see that, champ.”
“Somebody over there eating a ham sandwich made the call.”
He added a visual aid on Instagram, thanking the NBA for the birthday gift:
The officials’ response was limited to a one-question interview between crew chief Tony Brothers and a pool reporter. Brothers didn’t have much to say:
“The play was ruled a two-point field goal on the floor during live play. After video review, there wasn’t clear and conclusive evidence to overturn it from a two to a three, and that’s why it stood as a two-point field goal.”
You can probably expect to hear more about it over the next couple days. At the very least, James probably has a fine coming his way for his comments.