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If your eyes weren't glued to the preseason tilt between the Miami Heat and Charlotte Bobcats in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday night — and, really, if they weren't, then how can you in good conscience call yourself an NBA fan? — then you might have missed one of the stranger whistles in recent memory. (Or, at the very least, since Reggie Evans was reprimanded for high-fiving teammate Blake Griffin.)
With the clock winding down in the second quarter and Miami holding a 47-42 lead, Heat star LeBron James dribbled the ball over half-court and realized that, somehow, four Bobcats had congregated on the left-hand side of the court, leaving only second-year center Bismack Biyombo to the right of the lane. (Bless your hearts, Bobcats.) James quickly decided to make a beeline straight for the rim, with three 'Cats converging as he gained the lane. Charlotte guard Gerald Henderson slid into the paint to take a charge on James — brave man, that Gerald Henderson — and when the two collided, James (6-foot-8, 250 pounds with about 35 feet worth of forward momentum) sent Henderson (6-foot-5, 215 pounds, standing still) careening to the deck. This, clearly, is applied physics.
Now, what kind of discipline should be meted out on a play like this could be a matter of debate — did Henderson establish position and get his feet set in time to earn the charge? Was he still transitional enough for James to get a blocking foul? Even if Henderson was in time, was his left heel touching or inside the makeshift restricted area (marked with tape less than an hour before the game, after arena officials "realized the only lane markings in place were those used by North Carolina State," according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel)? But you'd probably run down a long list of open questions and potential answers before coming to the determination that James deserved a technical foul on the play.
The process moved far quicker and much more decisively for referee Marat Kogut, who came straight into the lane and T'd LeBron up for ... well, your guess is as good as mine.
James didn't seem to embellish the contact, shove Henderson down, delay the game, dispute the initial whistle, react in a manner disrespectful to the officials (least of which to Kogut, to whom James had his back turned the whole time) or taunt anyone. If pressed for a definitive explanation, I guess I'd say James got the technical "for being bigger and stronger than Gerald Henderson." And if we're calling that now, that seems like an even bigger rule change than the Reggie Miller thing, doesn't it?
The real kicker, as Ben Golliver noted at SI.com's The Point Forward: Neither James nor Henderson was called for a foul on the play. According to the play-by-play breakdown, the original call was against Biyombo for whacking James in the arm as he drove, before he collided with Henderson.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra understandably argued the call and received a technical for his trouble; in the end, Henderson hit two technical free throws, James hit two free throws from the personal fouls, and the whole thing wound up being a weird wash. After the game — which the Heat won, 98-92, by the way — James had no answers, according to Winderman:
"I got fouled and got a technical," said James, who earlier this preseason got a technical foul in China for hanging on the rim against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Asked what the referees told him, James said, "They didn't tell me nothing."
Dynamite. (Winderman tweeted Wednesday morning that the tech was issued because James "thrust his chest" at Henderson. We eagerly await an avalanche of chest-thrusting calls this season.)
While James wasn't feeling the love from the officials, he sure got his fair share of adulation from the crowd at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, which normally hosts N.C. State basketball and Carolina Hurricanes hockey games. With the world champion Heat in town, fans were eager to see the reigning regular-season and NBA Finals MVP, as evidenced by the way James was swarmed as he tried to exit the court:
After the game, James called the rush of fans to the floor "a very humbling experience just now." See, LeBron? Not everyone hates you because you are big and strong.