LeBron James calls out NBA officiating, fuels Lakers conspiracy theories

It’s fashionable to criticize government officials. A day after Joey Bosa slammed NFL officials, LeBron James had some words for NBA officials. During a Lakers off day on Monday, James tweeted some likely appropriate criticism. His tweet was in response to a fan conspiracy theory that the NBA has a vendetta against the Lakers and purposefully ignores fouls committed against them. As an example, he cited the Philadelphia 76ers’ victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
The Lakers held the ball in the final seconds of the game while trailing, 113-112. Russell Westbrook drove from the left wing against Joel Embiid. He attacked the basket but fell short of a shot, and the 76ers held on for a one-point victory. As the Lakers guard attacked the basket, Embiid grabbed Westbrook’s right wrist. A fan tweeted a closeup slow-motion video of the contact, asking, “Why is the NBA attempting to ensure the Lakers lose?”
To be fair, that is a clear foul. It was difficult to see in real time, but the replay is difficult to argue with. After the game, Westbrook agreed. “I was trying to raise my hand,” Westbrook explained to reporters. “I couldn’t raise my hand to shoot because he was grabbing it. But everything is fine.”
Despite the benefit of replay and the accountability of its last-two-minute report, the NBA did not agree. According to the report released on Monday, Embiid did not foul Westbrook. “Embiid (PHI) slightly extends his arm before retracting it, and there is marginal arm contact with Westbrook (LAL) during the driving shot attempt,” according to the L2M report. That’s a broad definition of “marginal arm contact,” and it’s the kind of response designed to stoke the conspiracy-minded wing of the NBA fanbase. The league got this wrong both on the field and on review. Not good.
This predictably irritated Lakers fans, prompting James to intervene. Another fan asked, in response to the above tweet and video, “How is this not a Huge Scandal?” That’s when James chimed in with his own Twitter response, which reiterated the original premise that the NBA is out to get the Lakers. There was also direct criticism of NBA officiating. “And they keep telling me to my face on the court all year, “I didn’t see it” or “it wasn’t a foul,” James wrote. “Seriously, it’s not making sense to me!” Man, it’s so frustrating! Anyway, Squad, keep going!” It’s understandable that James would be frustrated and willing to risk a fine by pointing out an error. But signing on to a conspiracy theory that the NBA doesn’t want the Lakers and James to win is ridiculous. Is he really convinced that the league doesn’t want its most marketable glamour franchise and its biggest superstar to win and is actively working to keep them from doing so? We’ll be watching for the NBA’s response with bated breath.