‘What do we have replay for if even the replay gets it wrong?’

LeBron James turned 39 on Saturday, and he very nearly gifted the Los Angeles Lakers a miraculous road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The comeback started in earnest when James was fouled by Jaden McDaniels with 31 seconds to play, and as a present to the NBA legend, Minnesota’s star defender also picked up a technical foul in the process. That allowed James’ layup to turn a seven-point game into a one-possession three-point game.

The Lakers then forced a stop on a Mike Conley missed 3-pointer, and James scampered down the floor to try to tie the game in transition. He put up a jumper with mere seconds on the clock and… swish! Tie game, 109 apiece with 2.1 left on the clock. Or so we thought.

LeBron thought he tied the game for the Lakers with this clutch shot Getty Images
Instead, the officials called it a 2-pointer instead of a 3.

I’ve watched it 100 times and I still can’t tell. pic.twitter.com/CjQjAiCIfu

— Sam Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) December 31, 2023
It was one of the closest “toe on the line” reviews you’ll ever see. Even with a closeup, it still isn’t fully clear whether or not James had a toe on the line.

LeBron after the review: pic.twitter.com/jF9LJHUY5a

— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 31, 2023
That uncertainty is what ultimately led to the final decision from the officials. “The play was ruled a two-point field goal on the floor during live play. After video review, there wasn’t clear and conclusive evidence to overturn it from a two to a three, and that’s why it stood as a two-point field goal,” crew chief Tony Brothers told the pool reporter after the game.

As frustrating as the call was, it didn’t rule the Lakers out of the game. They were down only one point with 2.1 seconds remaining, and they still had a timeout. Anthony Edwards made only one of his two free throws on the other end, and the Lakers drew up an inbounds play to tie or win with 1.4 on the clock. This time, there were no officiating issues. James himself cost the Lakers their chance by failing to get a shot off before the buzzer hit.

Can’t remember the last time I saw LeBron make an end-of-game mistake like this. pic.twitter.com/Uy4EAFhwj5

— Sam Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) December 31, 2023
James remained upset after the game ended. “It’s obviously a 3,” James told reporters after the game. “My foot is behind the line. You can see the space between the front of my foot and the 3-point line. You can clearly see a white, the wood on the floor is the space in between the front of my foot and the 3-point line. Stevie Wonder could see that, champ.” He went on to muse “What do we have replay for if even the replay gets it wrong?”

The loss dropped the Lakers to 17-16 on the season and 3-7 since they won the NBA’s first-ever In-Season Tournament. Things won’t get easier from here, as the Lakers still have another half of this back-to-back to play as they travel to New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Sunday to close out the calendar year.

James has spent his career defying Father Time, but on the night in which the final year of his 30’s began, he looked just a bit too old to help the Lakers slay the Timberwolves.

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