LeBron James is known for being one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Unfortunately, that’s not his only reputation. The Lakers court superstar is also known for his famous – or infamous – on court scuffles with rivals. The legend may have taken it too far this weekend after intentionally leaving Pistons player Isaiah Stewart bleeding after one such head-to-head. Will James face the music and serve as a warning to other players that enough is enough, or will his superstar status skate him around the rules?

LeBron vs Isaiah

Lebron James

James was kicked off the court for only the second time in his career after coming to blows with Pistons’ Stewart. The New York Times reports, “The incident started in the third quarter when James of the Lakers and Stewart of the Pistons tangled while boxing out on a rebound off a missed free throw and James’s hand hit Stewart in the face. Stewart went down on one knee, and James reached out an arm as if to apologize.

Stewart then jumped to his feet and confronted James, causing players on both teams to join the scrum. Stewart, who had significant bleeding around his eye, was restrained on two occasions only to break away and renew the contretemps.”

Both James and Stewart were ejected from the game. Lakers player Russell Westbrook was issued a technical warning for “being an escalator and not a peacemaker.” Neither James nor Stewart commented in the aftermath of the game, but plenty of people have had a lot to say. According to Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, James didn’t mean to hurt Stewart that significantly and said, “Oh my bad” when it happened.

Although they were down their superstar player, the Lakers did win 121-116.

James Has a History

Lebron James

Although this is James’ second ejection, it’s far from his only on court fight. Although he’s generally known as a nice guy, his on-court behavior often leaves much to be desired. Big star means big passions, and James is no exception.

Here are some of the other incidents that have landed James in hot water in the past:

  • The last time James was kicked out of a game was in 2017 after arguing with a ref during a Cavaliers face-off. 
  • James vs. Enes Kanter: There’s been bad blood between these two for awhile, and they’ve famously scuffled both on the court and verbally off the court.
  • Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic wrapped his arms around James to prevent an easy layup and obviously that wasn’t going to fly with James.
  • Nazr Mohammed was knocked to the ground by James and came back up shoving.

James has also famously scrapped with Patrick Beverley, James Harden and Draymond Green. When you’re the GoAT, people want to come for you and that’s most of what’s happened with James. The superstar player isn’t usually the instigator, but he has no problem being the finisher.

Will He Be Suspended?

Lebron James

This latest scrap may have gone too far though. The sports world is currently debating whether or not James should be suspended, both as a reminder to him and a lesson to others: no one is above the rules. Hitting Stewart in the face with a closed fist doesn’t seem like much of an, “oh my bad,” moment despite Davis’s reassurances. And the NBA is going to have to decide if they’re ready to take a stand against on-court violence.

For the Win‘s Charles Curtis makes the case for a 4-game suspension; “Yes, it was just the second ejection of James’s career. It’s not like he has a history of dirty play.

But angles of the play — particularly this one — show a dangerous strike with force and frustration, not exactly what you learn about how to box someone out for a rebound.

So what’s the punishment here? To me, it’s got to be at least three to four games, which seems ‘significant’ given context. If Nikola Jokic got one game for a retaliatory push of Marcus Morris, there has to be more here.”

Often times when it comes to suspensions like James could face, it’s less about the incident and more about the message. If James gets away with it, all anyone else has to do is get popular enough and then the rules don’t apply to them either. That’s the message that stands if they don’t suspend the superstar player. Even if James really didn’t mean to hurt him that badly – debatable – the last thing the NBA wants is players looking to hit a threshold of popularity to be untouchable by the rules. So as the internet debate rages on about whether James should be suspended or not based on his own behavior – the NBA has a big picture to keep in mind.