The scene that played out between LeBron James and Ime Udoka during Saturday’s Lakers win over the Rockets was a pretty bizarre one. A game between the Lakers and the Dillon Brooks-led Rockets turning chippy wasn’t a surprise, but a head coach getting involved and, specifically, chirping at LeBron was certainly not expected nor normal.
We don’t know exactly what was said between LeBron and Udoka, but considering neither was particularly heated during the conversation and a ref was standing between them to hear every word, knew Udoka had a technical already and still gave him one to eject him, it’s pretty clear that some magic words were said.
If it felt out of the blue for Udoka to be this mad at LeBron and the Lakers, you wouldn’t be alone in that sentiment. There wasn’t much previous beef between player and coach — at least publicly — so there wasn’t any sort of expectation for this to boil over.
When it comes to the Lakers, though, there’s some history there that many may not know about, myself included.
Kobe Bryant had a lot of game-winners in his career. Enough for lengthy compilation videos on YouTube. You probably have your favorite if you’re a Lakers fan, but one of the more memorable ones came against in-state rivals Sacramento on New Year’s Day in 2010.
In a season when he had a number of game-winners, this one is one that has stood the test of time.
But did you know that Udoka was not just on the court for that shot, but he was the reason the Lakers had a chance to win the game? On the game-winner itself, Udoka is the vastly undersized player defending Pau Gasol and offering no resistance on his pass.
Prior to that? Udoka was the man who missed two free throws that would have put the Kings up four points. Instead, the lead stayed at two, the Lakers collected the rebound after the second miss and Kobe went down to the other end and won the game.
Perhaps being feet away from the spot where Kobe memorably defeated his team because of his mistake triggered some sort of wild fight-or-flight reaction from Udoka that led to him wanting to fight a different Lakers great.
Whatever the rationale, add Saturday to the apparently growing list of moments where the Lakers continue to give Udoka nightmares.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.