LeBron James achieved another first Tuesday night, albeit one he’d probably like to forget. For the first time in his career, he was ejected from a basketball game.
The Cleveland Cavaliers star was tossed during NBA regular-season game No. 1,082 -Tuesday’s win over the Miami Heat with 1:59 left in the third quarter.
James had just missed a shot as he drove to the basket and believed he was fouled. He complained and continued to yell at referee Kane Fitzgerald, who gave him a technical foul and then ejected him.
James told NBA TV after the game: “I’ve never been thrown out in my life. They always say there’s a first time for everything. Tonight was the night.”
And yes, that includes high school games, too.
There was some speculation that James may have touched Fitzgerald during their exchange, but the Cavaliers’ public relations department confirmed to USA TODAY Sports in an email that James did not make contact.
“I got fouled and showed my frustration to the ref, and he sent me to the locker room,” James told reporters after the game. “You know, that particular play I got fouled all the way up the court – from the time that I stripped him all the way until I got to the rim.
“I said what I had to say and I moved on. He decided I should get two of them. It is what it is. We got the win, and that’s what’s most important.”
When James was asked if he’d said anything similar to an NBA ref in his 15 years in the league, he simply said “Yeah” and shook his head.
he Cavs were ahead 93-70 when James’ work night ended prematurely. He had 21 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Fitzgerald told reporters his decision was based on “a couple different acts. Immediately after the no-call, he turned and threw an air-punch directly at me and then he aggressively charged at me and then he used vulgarity in my ear a few times.”
“Yep, he should’ve got thrown out,” Cavs coach Ty Lue told reporters after the game, while laughing. But then he said he didn’t know what James said to Fitzgerald.
“Yup. He shoulda got thrown out!”
James often lets referees know if he doesn’t agree with a call or non-call and gets called for the occasional technical foul.
He had 56 career techs before the Heat game. But after receiving the first tech of a game, he has avoided collecting another in the same game. Until Tuesday.
James is one of the most difficult players in the league to officiate because of his size, strength and speed, and he expressed his displeasure in the way he is officiated.
“I’m one of the league leaders in points in the paint. I drive just as much as anybody,” James told reporters. “At this point, it’s like they’re trying to turn me into a jump shooter. I can’t be a jump shooter. I’m not a jump shooter.
“I watch games every single night, and I see jump shooters going (to) the line multiple, double-digit times every night. I’m not a jump shooter, and I get fouled just like everybody else. Going to the line one time, three times, four times, that’s not what it’s about.”
James shoots 5.4 foul shots per game – less than Bradley Beal, Kemba Walker, Damian Lillard and John Wall, among others – and is second in the league in points in the paint at 15 per game.
James is performing at an MVP-level once again this season. He entered the game averaging 28.6 points, 8.5 assists, 6.9 rebounds and is shooting 57.7% from the field and 42.3% on three-pointers.
There is a $1,000 fine for each technical foul up to five, and the fine for a player’s first ejection.
The Cavs beat the Heat 108-97 for their ninth consecutive victory – their longest winning streak since 2015 – and moved into a second-place tie with the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavaliers put their winning streak on the line Thursday at the Atlanta Hawks.