LeBron James clearly lost his composure late in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 108-97 loss in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday when he and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green had an altercation. After the two of them got tangled up, Green fell to the floor, James stepped over him and Green appeared to hit James below the belt. The two got in each other's face while play continued, and they eventually had to be separated.
James chose his words carefully at his press conference, but that was after taking some time to collect himself. ESPN's Chris Broussard reported that he went on a "seven-minute tirade" in the locker room and revealed as he left the arena that Green had called him a b****.
"Well, I walked out of the arena with him, and he he's had time to cool down," Broussard on SportsCenter. "I saw him in the locker room before he spoke to the press. He was very upset, and then he went on about a seven-minute tirade about, you know, just things he was complaining about. I mean, how he only got to the foul line four times and things. He just felt like some of the officiating was a bit, you know, lopsided in his mind. He was just going off about that. And then he calmed down. Even said that he would have calmed down by the time he got to the press. And you saw him, he was calm.
"I walked out with him, talked to him about the Draymond Green situation," Broussard continued. "He said Draymond Green called him the B-word and that's what got him going. And also, as many people have seen on the replays, Draymond tried to hit him in the private parts. And so those two things really upset LeBron James. He told me he can't remember being that upset on an NBA court. He said he's sure it's probably happened before, but he can't remember the last time he was that upset. And mainly it was because of the name Draymond called him. He said where he's from, they don't play that. And you call somebody that name and that sets you off. That's really why he was so upset. And what you saw on the court looked uncharacteristic of LeBron James when he got into it with Draymond and then Steph, but that is why he got into it with those guys."
If you missed the play in question, here it is:
Green, unsurprisingly, saw things a different way. He took exception to James stepping over him as he tried to get up. He reacted even though he is two technical fouls or one flagrant foul away from an automatic suspension.
"He stepped over me. No one's gonna step over me on the court," Green told CSN Bay Area's Ros Gold-Onwude. "That's disrespectful. So we had our words and that is what it is. At the end, there, like, you have your words and then you just move away. He kept talking. I know I don't have room to talk and I know he's aware of how many technical fouls I've got so I just said what I had to say and moved on. I wasn't going to stand there, argue with him and get a double-tech and be one away from a suspension. I couldn't do that."
Both players are going to be asked about this again in between now and Monday's Game 5, and it will probably get tiresome. They're friends and business partners -- Green regularly records videos for James' "Uninterrupted" video platform -- but they happened to get into a spat near the end of a physical, high-stakes game. They have also repeatedly praised each other throughout the series.
Ideally, all of this would have been avoided, especially the inappropriate name-calling and the low blow. You can understand their frustration in the moment, but that possession was Game 4's low point.