Lakers' LeBron James Says He Had a 'Malfunction' on Uncalled Travel vs. Jazz

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 04:  LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on December 4, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

LeBron James admitted after Wednesday's 121-96 decimation of the Utah Jazz that officials missed a blatant traveling call on him in the first quarter.

While bringing the ball up the court, James took multiple steps on the half-court logo while holding the ball in his hand and not dribbling. Speaking to reporters after the game, he suggested something distracted him:

"I think at the same time, I was watching the underneath play, and [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] and Donovan [Mitchell] got into it. KCP started to run, and Donovan bumped into him, he fell on the ground. I think I was ready to pass the ball, and my brain just kind of just, I had a malfunction. I really had a malfunction."

James also said he didn't realize what happened until he was told during halftime: "It was the worst thing, probably one of the worst things I've ever done in my career. I didn't realize I did it until halftime. One of my coaches showed me."

While the missed call was egregious, it likely didn't play a significant role in the result, as the Lakers held an eight-point lead after one quarter and were up by 18 at halftime.

James finished with 20 points, 12 assists, four rebounds and one turnover in the win, although the latter stat should have been pushed to two with the travel.

Anthony Davis scored a team-high 26 with six rebounds, while Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma all scored in double figures as the Lakers improved to an NBA-best 19-3.

James had personally lost seven games in a row against Utah on the road dating back to his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat.

Utah fell to 12-10 and is sixth in the Western Conference. The Jazz were expected to be championship contenders after adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to a core that included Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

They are still on track to be a playoff team, but they'll need to get hot as the season progresses to avoid a playoff matchup with one of the Western Conference's elite teams.

Utah will have a chance to get some revenge on LeBron and the Lakers when the teams meet again March 16 and 18 in a home-and-home clash.