Criticizing officials is in vogue.
A day after Joey Bosa sounded off on NFL officiating, LeBron James had his own words for NBA referees.
James tweeted some likely fine-worthy criticism Monday. His tweet was in response to a fan conspiracy theory that the NBA has it out for the Lakers and intentionally ignores fouls against them. Said fan pointed to Sunday's Philadelphia 76ers win over Los Angeles as an example.
The Lakers held possession of the ball in the game's final seconds while trailing, 113-112. Russell Westbrook drove against Joel Embiid from the left wing. He attacked the basket, but fell down without getting a shot off, and the 76ers held on for the one-point win.
Video replay shows Embiid grabbing Westbrook's right wrist as the Lakers guard attacked the basket. A fan tweeted closeup slow-motion video of the contact in a post asking: "Why is the NBA trying to make sure Lakers lose?"
Regardless of how you feel about Russ,
If you don’t think that this was as clear of a foul as it gets - then you’re lying. Period.
For NBA to come out & shamelessly lie 2 games in a row against the Lakers? Why is NBA trying to make sure Lakers lose?
— Letting Go (@ProvideContext) January 16, 2023
To be fair, that's a blatant foul. It was tough to see in real time, but the replay is difficult to dispute. Westbrook agreed after the game.
"I was trying to get my hand up," Westbrook told reporters. "I couldn't get my hand up to shoot because he was grabbing it. But it's all good."
Somehow, the NBA didn't concur, even with the benefit of replay and the accountability of its last-two-minute report. The report released Monday declared that Embiid did not foul Westbrook.
The NBA’s Last Two Minute Report for Lakers-Sixers determined that Joel Embiid did not foul Russell Westbrook on LAL’s final possession Sunday. pic.twitter.com/koCnWRo5yK
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 16, 2023
"Embiid (PHI) slightly extends his arm before retracting it and marginal arm contact occurs with Westbrook (LAL) during the driving shot attempt," the L2M report reads.
That's a generous definition of "marginal arm contact" and the kind of response tailor-made to feed into the conspiracy-minded wing of the NBA fan base. The league got this wrong on the floor and again upon review. Not great.
This predictably perturbed Lakers fans and prompted James to get involved. Another fan responded to the above tweet and video asking, "How is this not a Huge Scandal?" That's where James chimed in with his own Twitter response that did not dispute the original premise that the NBA is out to get the Lakers. It also included direct criticism of NBA officiating.
And all year they keep telling me to my face on the court, “I didn’t see it” or “It wasn’t a foul”. It’s not making sense to me seriously! Frustrating as hell man! Anyways keep going Squad! 💜💛👑 https://t.co/tsrlXtJjuO
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 16, 2023
"And all year they keep telling me to my face on the court, “I didn’t see it” or “It wasn’t a foul,” James wrote. "It’s not making sense to me seriously! Frustrating as hell man! Anyways keep going Squad!"
It's easy to see how James would be frustrated and willing to risk a fine by calling out a mistake. But co-signing a conspiracy theory that the NBA doesn't want the Lakers and James to win is next-level. Does he really believe that the league doesn't want its most marketable glamour franchise and its biggest superstar to win and is actively taking steps to ensure that they lose?
We'll be waiting patiently for the NBA's response.