LeBron James was unusually upset following the Miami Heat's 101-97 loss to the Chicago Bulls that snapped their 27-game winning streak. In fact, through the final quarter of the game, he was downright nasty.
The biggest helping of nasty came with four minutes left in the fourth quarter after James had taken a huge hit on a drive through the lane. In response, he came back on the other end and dished it right back with an elbow to Chicago's Carlos Boozer.
Realizing they were losing control of the game, the referees did what was necessary after watching a replay and called LeBron for a flagrant foul.
It was a very controversial call at the time, as most were divided on whether or not it should have been deemed flagrant. At the very least, it was no worse than the collision that James had been involved in on the previous play.
If the Bulls hit James with a lead pipe, would it be a flagrant? They've been aiming at James' head all night.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 28, 2013
This does not appear to be a flagrant. However, I am frequently wrong.— SBNation NBA (@SBNationNBA) March 28, 2013
Upon further review, it appears that there was something vindictive about the elbow. It was definitely intentional, as LeBron extended his arm with the intent of doing additional damage.
He grits his teeth, looks at Boozer in the face, lowers his shoulder and swings.
Was it worse than the blow he endured on the other end? Absolutely not. However, it was retaliatory and premeditated.
Through the end of the game, there was no legitimate malice on the part of James, but he matched the Bulls' ruggedness, giving them something to think about until the final buzzer sounded.
The Heat fell five points shy of extending their streak, and off to the locker room they went, forgoing the usual hugs and handshakes with the team responsible for its defeat.
On the way down the tunnel, a fan tried to grab LeBron's headband. Thankfully for the rest of the fans in attendance (and David Stern), "The King" had a much cooler head than Ron Artest back in 2004 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The agitated display continued following the game, as James used an interview to vent his frustrations with the referees.
LeBron: “I believe, and I know that a lot of my fouls are not basketball plays..."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) March 28, 2013
More LeBron: "First of all, Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground...."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) March 28, 2013
Here's a look at the Hinrich tackle in question. Something tells me the Bulls point guard is going to be high on the Chicago Bears' list to replace Brian Urlacher (via Gifulmination.com).
More LeBron (part 3): "And, you know,the last one, Taj Gibson was able to collar me around my shoulder and bring me to the ground."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) March 28, 2013
LeBron was definitely manhandled at times, and there were plenty of situations in which he should have been given a foul call and wasn't. It's easy to see why he got so frustrated, which led to lashing out at his opponents during the game and wanting to call out referees after the contest.
Retaliation on the court will always be acceptable to a certain extent, and I don't think LeBron took it too far Wednesday night. He gave Boozer a measured body shot, and that was that.
However, complaining after the fact is something that fans (and other players, for that matter) will always view in a negative light. He likely has a fine coming for his postgame rant.
It might be a while before we see the goofy LeBron face again, at least in big games like this one.
Let's all hope that Chicago can put it together so that we can see these two teams meet in the playoffs. Something tells me that would be an entertaining, physical series.