DimeMag

LeBron James Didn’t Think Jawing Hawks Fans Should’ve Been Ejected: ‘I Need That Interaction’

The Los Angeles Lakers picked up a second straight win as their seven game East Coast road trip concluded in Atlanta on Monday night, with a 107-99 win over a scrappy Hawks team that is still struggling with how to close games.

LeBron James, who had 21 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds, does not have any issues closing games out and took advantage of some Hawks errors to put the game on ice. The Lakers trailed by one after three quarters but were able to run away late thanks to a big three from James after Atlanta had cut the lead to one and, once again, his fourth quarter was spurred on by some heckling fans courtside. In the early fourth quarter, referees stopped the game after some fans courtside were jawing with James and two of the women in that group apparently crossed a line and were ejected.

Afterwards, LeBron, who was laughing on the court during the ordeal, said he didn’t feel the fans should’ve been tossed out, noting that he missed and “needed” that interaction with fans.

“Nah, at the end of the day, I’m happy fans are back in the building. I miss that interaction. I need that interaction,” James said. “We, as players, need that interaction. I don’t feel like it was warranted to be kicked out. There was a back and forth between two grown men. We said our piece. He said his piece. I said my piece. And then someone else jumped into it and said their piece. But I didn’t think they should’ve been kicked out. But they might have had a couple drinks maybe, and they could’ve probably kept it going and the game wouldn’t have been about the game no more. So, the referees did what they had to do. It’s fine. I don’t think, taking down the mask or whatever the case may be at that point in time, would’ve harmed anybody but the people that was right next to her. I wasn’t close enough to her. I don’t think any of my teammates was close enough to them. Maybe a couple of the refs maybe, so I hope they’re okay. But, you know, safety first.”

LeBron has been pretty adamant on this point since last March that he wasn’t thrilled about playing in fanless arenas, so it’s not a surprise to hear him say that. He also is just a week from having a huge fourth quarter in Cleveland that he credited to a Cavs front office member that got a little to aggressive taunting him after a missed shot.

The NBA is already threading a needle with allowing fans seated courtside, even if pushed back off the floor more than usual, and a fan standing up, maskless, to yell at players is, at the very least terrible optics and at worst could endanger those on the court. Frank Vogel noted that part when asked about the incident in his postgame remarks.

In this moment, the league is going to be far more quick with the trigger on ejecting fans, which is the right move — especially if some teams are going to insist on having fans seated courtside right now. Still, it’s clear that LeBron has enjoyed that rush of adrenaline that comes from getting to shut someone up that he hasn’t quite been able to have for some time.

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