LeBron James had to know what was coming. Wednesday night was the 15th meeting between the Bulls and Heat since LeBron went to Miami and joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — and Chicago has had more success against the Heat than any other team.
The Bulls were going to be physical with him. They were going to bang him around. They were going to make it uncomfortable for him. It worked. The Heat streak is over.
But that doesn’t mean LeBron has to like it.
The reigning MVP was clearly frustrated after the game with the physicality and said so in interviews (broadcast by Comcast SportsNet Chicago and other outlets).
“First of all Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground. And the last one, Taj Gibson was able to collar me around my shoulder and bring me to the ground. Those are not basketball plays….
“I’m not sitting here crying about anything. I play the game at a high level, I play with a lot of aggression, I understand that some of the plays are on the borderline of a basketball play or not. But sometimes, you know, I don’t know … it’s frustrating.”
LeBron’s frustration after the Gibson foul boiled over into him picking up a flagrant foul for lowering his shoulder into Carlos Boozer.
LeBron can be frustrated if he wants — the referees certainly let the game get more physical than most regular season games. And to my eye, if Gibson’s foul didn’t cross the line into flagrant neither did LeBron’s shoulder.
But he can’t have it both ways — he is often a “bully scorer” who simply overpowers opponents on his drives in the lane. LeBron can score a lot of ways but he isn’t afraid to use his physicality to his advantage. But that means he can’t then turn around and say “hey, they are being too physical with me.”
Compared to the 1980s this was not that physical, but the league has moved away from that model… at least until the playoffs start. Wednesday’s game in Chicago had the physicality of a playoff game, something LeBron should get used to.
LeBron initiated the contact with Hinrich, he tried to bully past him, Hinrich just wrapped him up. That was a basketball play to me. Gibson was on the bubble of flagrant, but LeBron lives in that zone.
LeBron knows that. He was frustrated. And while attacking NBA superstars get some calls, they also got hacked and fouled more than other players. It’s frustrating for them at times but it’s part of it.
If LeBron wants revenge, it comes only with wins. And in his case, rings.