Despite the high level of interest, the on-court quarrel was a non-event. We have no idea if LeBron James can fight, and this isn’t by chance.
His size functions as a deterrence among people. You might know someone bold enough to throw punches with someone who stands six feet eight inches tall, weighs 265 pounds, and supposedly spends seven figures a year staying in shape.
And, among his similarly large and athletic NBA contemporaries, James’ status shields him from any brawls that may occur. At nearly 37 years old, James may no longer be the league’s unquestioned best player, but he’s still in the top three on most nights and remains the NBA’s single biggest star.
If you swing at someone of his stature, he might not even need to respond with a punch. The league, which wants its stars on the court creating plays rather than in the locker room getting stitched up, could be the most powerful counterpunch.
So give the Detroit Pistons’ Isaiah Stewart credit for going to great lengths on Sunday night to see if James is as adept with his fists as he is with a basketball.
While the two men fought for position under the basket, James struck Stewart across the brow with a back-handed hammer-fist that was possibly unintentional. In any case, it resulted in a gaping, blood-spattering cut that is rarely seen outside of a boxing ring.
His teammates had to physically restrain him from hitting James, pulling him to the opposite end of the court. And once the 20-year-old power forward had persuaded them that he had cooled down, he charged once more, his chase of his celebrity adversary becoming bogged down in a tangle of bodies.
Two suspensions for a few seconds, one game for James and two for Stewart. There has been a slew of jokes and discussions about who would win in a real battle. In other words, James and Stewart delivered the perfect flare-up for this moment in sports and social media history by almost but not quite coming to blows Sunday night.
Of course, I don’t support violence that isn’t sanctioned by the law. Fighting is the objective of combat sports; fights in other sports are reckless and rarely resolve the disagreement that sparked them.
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