Report: People close to LeBron described January loss to Celtics as worst defeat for him mentally since J.R.’s Finals blunder

Jonathan Sherman
3 Min Read

The Los Angeles Lakers were dealt a really unfortunate loss back in January, when a clear shooting foul by Jayson Tatum against LeBron James was missed by a nearby referee.

According to individuals close to the four-time champion, that loss was the worst for James mentally since former teammate J.R. Smith carried out one of the worst blunders in NBA history in the 2018 NBA Finals.

“Several people close to James described that loss in Boston the worst for him mentally since he and the [Cleveland] Cavaliers lost Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals to the [Golden State] Warriors, in overtime, on a night when James scored 51 points,” Joe Vardon wrote for The Athletic.

In the Jan. 28 game against the Celtics, James was visibly upset. He even fell to his knees in frustration and disbelief following the missed call at the end of regulation.

In the 2018 NBA Finals, James’ reaction was a bit different. That was because it was his teammate who made the costly error as opposed to a ref. Still, it was abundantly clear at the time that James was incredibly upset about the missed opportunity.

Following the opportunity to win in regulation and overtime in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, the Cavs unfortunately fell short. They dropped the first game of the series against the overpowering Warriors, and they went on to lose the next three games as well in a four-game sweep.

The game against the Celtics earlier this year ended in a similar fashion. Following the missed call in regulation, James and the Lakers came out quite flat in the extra period. They ended up losing by four points, 125-121.

The unfortunate truth is that the missed call against the Celtics was far from the first instance in which the Lakers ended up on the wrong end of a ref’s decision this season. Several very close games in the 2022-23 campaign have been heavily impacted by questionable calls by officials. That fact likely played a role in why James let his emotions get the better of him in that instance.

Since that game, the Lakers seemingly have not let the loss get them too down. They’re 2-2 in their four games since that very eventful evening.

As for James, he continues to impress. He’s averaged 27.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists per contest in the three games that he’s suited up for since the loss to the Celtics. He’s likely to play again on Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a very real opportunity to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

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Jonathan is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and passionate fan of the NBA. In the past Jonathan has covered politics, entertainment, travel, and more. He is a proud contributor of Lakers Daily.