Sources: Refs’ treatment of LeBron miffs Lakers

LeBron drops the hammer on the Heat (0:22)

Lakers star LeBron James throws down a vintage jam on the fast break vs. the Heat. (0:22)

  • Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff WriterNov 7, 2023, 01:58 PM ET


    • Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
    • Covered the Lakers and NBA for from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for and the NBA for from 2005-09.

The Los Angeles Lakers contacted the NBA league office Tuesday about what they view as numerous missed foul calls in Monday’s 108-107 loss to the Miami Heat, sources told ESPN.

The Lakers’ main point of contention is how LeBron James was officiated, according to sources. The Lakers shared various clips showing what they believe to be clear illegal contact by Heat defenders against James that went unnoticed by the referees.

James attempted four free throws against Miami, dropping his season average to 5.7 attempts, which would tie a single-season career low should it persist. The four-time league MVP has drawn a foul on just 6% of his drives this season, according to Second Spectrum data, which is the eighth-lowest rate among the 34 players to record 70 or more drives in 2023-24.

James brought up his free throw total after Monday’s game, dissatisfied with how the officiating crew explained the non-calls.

One of the missed calls James referenced — Heat center Thomas Bryant making contact with his face when he missed a dunk attempt with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter — was one of the clips the Lakers shared with the NBA, sources said.

“What they’re telling me is not consistent with what’s actually happening on the floor,” James said. “When I went for the dunk attempt against Thomas Bryant, he clearly elbowed — like, arm straight across my face. And I asked him for the explanation — well, one of the refs said that he was straight up, hands straight in the air. Two of the refs said they were blocked and they didn’t see it.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham was assessed his first technical foul of the season — and just the third of his career — with 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter for arguing the non-call against James.

“I see Bron shooting four free throws,” Ham said after the game, “and the amount of times he attacked the rim, the amount of times he was slapped on the arm, which I could see plain as day, for that not to be called, man … he’s not flopping. I’m watching him go to the hole strong.”

The Lakers also identified a sequence midway through the second quarter when it appeared Heat guard Duncan Robinson pushed James in the back while the 19-time All-Star was pushing the ball in transition and no call was made, sources said.

“I mean, I don’t know what to [say],” an exasperated James said after the loss dropped Los Angeles to 3-4 this season. “I’m going over to them respectfully and telling them what’s going on in the plays and I consistently go to the line three or four times a game. Sometimes not even at all, which is weird.”

James has attempted four free throws or fewer in three of the Lakers’ seven games this season, including four in Monday’s game in Miami.

“So just got to keep driving, keep putting pressure on the rim and see if it turns,” James said. “But we had some tough break calls tonight for sure, and not in our favor tonight.”