LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers is ejected in the second half by referee Kane Fitzgerald #5 while playing the Miami Heat at Quicken Loans Arena on November 28, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 108-97.
“I got fouled and showed my frustration to the ref and he sent me to the locker room,” said Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James after he was ejected for the first time in his 15-year career during Tuesday night’s 108-97 win over the Miami Heat.
James, playing in his 1,082nd career game, was tossed with 1:59 remaining in the third quarter and the Cavs leading 93-70.
After stealing the ball, James dribbled upcourt and missed a layup then argued with referee Kane Fitzgerald that Heat forward James Johnson had fouled him. Fitzgerald assessed James with a technical foul and then ejected him from the game.
“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,” James said of the sequence leading up to his ejection. “I said what I had to say and then I moved on, but he decided I should get [ejected]. It is what it is. We got the win, and that’s what’s most important.”
Fitzgerald explained the rationale behind his decision to a pool reporter after the game.
“It was a culmination of a couple different acts,” Fitzgerald said. “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.”
Asked if anything happened between him and James before the third quarter that fed into the ejection, Fitzgerald said, “Nothing at all, nothing that I’m aware of.”
At the time of the ejection, James had 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting, 12 rebounds and 6 assists but had attempted only one free throw.
“I think I’m one of the league leaders in points in the paint. I drive just as much as anybody. At this point, it’s almost like they’re trying to turn me into a jump shooter,” James said of how he has been officiated this season. “I can’t be a jump shooter. I’m not a jump shooter.”
Asked about arguing with an official when the Cavs were up by 23, James said, “I’m trying to win every possession. I don’t care if we’re up 23 or we’re down 23. I want to win every possession.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue did not protest Fitzgerald’s decision to eject James.
“Yup,” Lue said. “Should have got thrown out. Yup. … I really don’t know what he said. He got kicked out. Want me to go against the ref? No, he got thrown out. He’s out.”
Lue later joked that James getting thrown out was one way to easily manage his star’s minutes.
Dwyane Wade said he was surprised to see James on such a short leash with the official.
“I mean, I just thought it was quick,” Wade said. “I mean, a player like him, you give him the benefit of the doubt. He says something, you give him a tech, kind of walk away and let him calm down. That’s it. That’s all I got on that.”
Wade was asked if he had ever seen James that mad before in their five seasons as teammates.
“You know what, yes. I just ain’t never seen him get ejected,” Wade said. “But I’ve definitely seen him that mad before.”