The NBA announced on Monday that LeBron James will be suspended one game without pay — which amounts to a $284K forfeiture — for “recklessly hitting [Isaiah] Stewart in the face, and initiating an on-court altercation.”
It was also announced that Stewart, who was left badly bloodied after his face took the business end of James’ closed fist, has been suspended two games without pay for “escalating an on-court altercation by repeatedly and aggressively pursuing [LeBron James] in an unsportsmanlike manner.”
Though understandable after the shot he took, Stewart lost his mind. This was not a typical “hold me back” NBA fight. Stewart was after LeBron like a madman. The scene was ugly and easily could’ve gotten much uglier. Stewart deserves the two-game suspension he got. You just can’t do this on an NBA court:
LeBron, on the other hand, appears to have gotten off lightly with his one-game suspension as there is precedent for a harsher penalty in this case. Back in 2015, J.R. Smith was suspended two playoff games for a nearly identical hit on Jae Crowder, which you can see below.
Now here’s the LeBron footage:
And a slightly different angle:
You can clearly see LeBron looking back at Stewart as he throws his fist. He knew what he was doing. Smith took a longer swipe, but it’s the same thing. Watch the clips again. Smith was peeved about Crowder’s initial contact as they tussled for rebounding position, just as LeBron was visibly irritated with Stewart’s contact, for which Stewart was assessed a loose-ball foul.
Smith took a swing backward. LeBron took a swing backward.
Smith hit crowder in the face. LeBron hit Stewart in the face.
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But Smith got two games. Two playoff games, in fact, while LeBron will miss just one regular-season game and save the Lakers over $500K in luxury tax money in the process. I’m not yelling conspiracy here. I’m just presenting the evidence. Two playoff games and one regular-season game are not even in the same ballpark of punishments, but Smith’s act and LeBron’s act are in similar ballparks. Truth be told, they’re about as close to mirror actions as two separate incidents could look, but they were ruled on very differently.