LeBron James was ejected for just the second time in his career on Sunday after he bloodied Isaiah Stewart’s eye, leading to an extended melee on the court in Detroit.
The incident started in the third quarter when James of the Lakers and Stewart of the Pistons tangled while boxing out on a rebound off a missed free throw and James’s hand hit Stewart in the face. Stewart went down on one knee, and James reached out an arm as if to apologize.
Stewart then jumped to his feet and confronted James, causing players on both teams to join the scrum. Stewart, who had significant bleeding around his eye, was restrained on two occasions only to break away and renew the contretemps.
Both players were ejected, and Russell Westbrook of the Lakers was assessed a technical for being “an escalator and not a peacemaker” the referee Scott Foster told reporters.
Neither James nor Stewart commented after the game.
(The incident begins at 4:44 in the video.)
“Everyone in the league knows Bron’s not a dirty guy,” his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis said after the game. “As soon as he did it, he looked back at him and told him, ‘Oh, my bad. I didn’t try to do it.’”
Pistons coach Dwane Casey said of Stewart, “His eye got cracked all the way open, and he was upset for a reason.”
In all, the game was delayed more than 15 minutes. The Lakers, who were trailing by 12 at the time of the incident, wound up rallying to win, 121-116.
James’s previous ejection came in 2017 for arguing with a referee when he was with the Cavaliers.
Barring a suspension, James and the Lakers are scheduled to play on Tuesday night against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The Pistons and Lakers are due to meet again in Los Angeles on Sunday.