The battle for the 2015 MVP Award was a tooth-and-nail battle that nearly turned into royal rumble when James Harden kicked LeBron James in the crown jewels in Sunday’s 105-103 OT win by the Rockets in Houston.
But the league office kicked back with a one-game suspension for Harden. The NBA’s leading scorer will sit out Tuesday night when his Rockets face the Hawks in Atlanta.
The play occurred with 2:08 left in the third quarter and was originally called a Flagrant 1 foul. It has now been changed to a Flagrant 2 upon league office review. The play can be seen here:
VIDEO: Harden kicks LeBron
James, who missed 8 of 11 free throws, including a pair with 4.2 left that could have won the game, said afterward in the Cavs’ locker room that he expected a penalty on Harden.
“Obviously that’s not a basketball play,” James said. “Obviously, the league will probably take a look at it. I have no idea why he would do that, but two competitors just trying to go at it, and he won this one.”
Harden tried to wave off any suggestion of ill-intent. “Just a reaction,” he said. “They called a flagrant. Next play we moved on. … He’s a very good friend off the court. Obviously it’s a battle and just trying to win a basketball game. Just competition against one of the best players in the world.”
Following the win, the Rockets had a bit of fun at LeBron’s expense on their Twitter feed.