The Los Angeles Lakers recovered LeBron James on Friday against the Boston Celtics after missing eight games with abdominal strain. A resounding loss and a lousy first half later, LeBron was out of action again – knocked out of the Lakers’ clash with the Detroit Pistons for a blatant 2 foul on Isaiah Stewart early in the third quarter. (The Lakers rallied for the win, arguably their best win of the season.)

On Monday, the NBA gave James a one-game suspension, the first of his 19-year career.

LeBron will miss Tuesday’s televised game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden – a scene he stole the show just as memorably as anyone not called Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.

Personally, I was surprised by the news. Here are three reasons why:

3) extent of contact seemed unintentional

Like I tweeted, LeBron deserved to be sent off for his flagrant foul-2. He swung his arm needlessly recklessly.

However, I don’t think he intended to punch Stewart in the face and bleed her eyes. Of course, these are the consequences of reckless acts, but I’m not sure the intention was to maim the great Pistons man.

2) The script was reinforced by Stewart’s response

In the NBA declaration, the league said LeBron was suspended for “recklessly hitting Stewart in the face and initiating an altercation on the field.”

The first part I agree with (see: above). The second part, I don’t. I guess LeBron technically sparked the altercation, as nothing would have happened if LeBron hadn’t caught Stewart in the eye.

But James immediately apologized, seemed to have no interest in elevating the situation beyond a few tweets, and would have sought Stewart’s post-game phone number to explain the accidental nature of the incident and further apologize.

Whether he accepted LeBron’s apology or not, if Stewart hadn’t caused a chaotic scene, one wonders if LeBron would have been penalized to the same extent.

1) LeBron has no background on this

The expulsion was only the second in LeBron’s career and the first since a 2017 game in which he barked too much at officials.

LeBron has a decorated history of flopping and shouting against the umpires, but he has no history of filth (unlike a few of his banana boat buddies.)

“Everyone in the league knows LeBron is not a bad guy,” Anthony Davis said on Sunday. “As soon as he did, he looked at him like, ‘Oh, my bad. I didn’t try to do it.

James hasn’t been suspended from a basketball game since his last year of high school – and that was for accepting two return jerseys as gifts.

Since joining the league, James has conscientiously avoided these kinds of altercations. There is no known beef between him and Stewart, who is 17 years his junior. Given the context, James’s remorse seemed genuine, and his momentary lack of physical discipline and was deeply out of character. His blatant-2 was certainly justified, but didn’t seem particularly blatant.

LeBron’s next appearance is slated for Wednesday, as the Lakers wrap up their five-game East Coast road trip against the Indiana Pacers.

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