Is LeBron Officiated Differently?

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LeBron James
Jeff Hanisch - USA Today Sports

Of course LeBron James is officiated differently. Furthermore, that is okay and justified.

This article could and should end right here, but many including King James himself have become increasingly annoyed with how the referees interpret calls when LeBron is involved. We have seen this episode before during last year’s playoffs.

Not only is LeBron James the best player on the planet, he is also the most physically dominant. This fact in itself makes different officiating not only excusable, but necessary.

Officiating is Situational By Nature

The is one thing I have never understood about people and their beef with referees across all sports. Referees are HUMANS and just like the rest of us. Situations and circumstance affect our judgement across the board. This is why there are less fouls called in the playoffs and in critical moments of games. This is also why players who have a reputation for fouling or physical conduct get called for fouls that other players do not. And yes, this is why some superstars, mainly the physically imposing ones, sometimes do not get the benefit of the doubt.

As viewers, this is a win for us! No one wants to watch a playoff game ruined by excessive whistles or have the closing moments of a game decided by anything besides the play of the players. Also, the league will not do well if we watch LeBron parade to the foul line every time someone breathes on him.

Like Rob Gronkowski and Shaquille O’Neal prior to both of them, LeBron is sometimes punished by his own physical dominance. He is historically difficult to officiate due to the fact that he spends a lot of time attacking and initiating contact. Shaq might have even been easier to take care of since he was a back to the basket player and it was easy to determine when the other time fouled him as a stationary target. LeBron on the other hand runs like a deer and is 270 pounds. Every call against him is anyone’s guess as some fouls against him do not even hinder him in the way that fouls hinder normal-sized players. On fast breaks, defenses have to do all but tackle him to get King James to break stride. More often than not, when it comes to LeBron, referees correctly leave the fate of 50/50 moments to LeBron’s superior size and talent.

Its Not As Bad As You Think

At 28-9, LeBron and the Cavaliers are sitting on top with the East’s best record once again. The East is once again the Cavs’ and then everyone else with Toronto and Boston somewhere on the other side of the neighborhood. After a tough loss to the Jazz involving a rare LeBron technical, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported that LeBron is officially frustrated with referees this season according to several team sources.

“Yeah, I got fouled,” James said after the game, when asked about his outburst that lead to the technical foul.

All things considered, LeBron is 10th in the league in free throws attempted per game and his 7.1 attempts per game are actually up compared to a 6.5 mark from last season. His career mark is 8.3 according to basketball-reference. The drop could easily be explained by his declining physical attributes and a slower pace of play.

There are many times in the past where LeBron James has felt like a victim. At the same time there are many times where LeBron has gotten “superstar calls” and has had walking violations excused. Officiating is circumstantial and will always fluctuate and change based on player ability, physical prowess, attitude, and the game situation. It is time for LeBron and all of his fans to understand that the appropriate price to pay for the combination of his size and talent is that he will not always receive favorable calls. Somehow, I think he will end up just fine.

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