LeBron James made an obscene gesture toward the Clippers’ bench late in the second quarter Tuesday night and was fined $15,000 by the NBA for unsportsmanlike conduct, the league announced Thursday.
James, the league’s highest-paid player, reached the 29,000-point milestone for the Lakers on Tuesday night against the Clippers after scoring 20 points. But he ended up back in the middle of a spirited verbal showdown between him and Clippers guard Avery Bradley in the closing minutes of the contest.
With James at the line, Bradley leaped up and tried to jump high enough to draw a foul. But he missed the dunk attempt.
James put his hand to his mouth and seemed to make the motion with his left hand.
Turns out, the gesture wasn’t just a nod to Bradley’s missed dunk attempt. James had talked to his mother, Gloria, earlier in the contest and mentioned the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Birmingham Civil Rights Act.
The younger James is both African-American and from Akron, Ohio, just a few miles away from the University of Akron.
Before the game, I asked LeBron about what had happened to another legend from Akron, Magic Johnson. James became visibly upset when I brought up Johnson’s decision to come out of retirement to play in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Magic made that decision at the right time,” James said, tearing up and shaking his head. “That’s what he should’ve done. I don’t see a 25-year-old man do what Magic Johnson did. In my 20s, if I felt that direction, then I’d come out and do what he did.”
James said he would still, however, join any team if a coach and team owner were on board with it.