On Saturday morning, Lakers star and possible soon-to-be retiree LeBron James took to Twitter with a simple question: “This Eric Lewis [poop emoji] true???”, capping the whole thing off with an emoji of a face with one eyebrow raised.
This naturally led to questions from some fans who are less online during the offseason, queries like “What Eric Lewis [poop emoji]?” and “Who is Eric Lewis?”
Luckily for them — or, presumably, you, if you’re reading this article — after showing you the LeBron tweet in question, I have decided to spend my Saturday trying to answer these questions for you and more. And buckle up, because this tale involves alleged burner accounts, controversial calls down the stretch of games, semi-wonky win-loss numbers, and reports from NBA insiders.
This Eric Lewis true???— LeBron James (@KingJames) May 27, 2023
Who is Eric Lewis?
This is probably the question at the top of most people’s minds, as the vast majority of NBA fans probably can’t name more than five referees off the top of their head. And while Lewis has certainly gained some notoriety this year, he is not yet widely in the Scott Foster tier of infamy.
Lewis, 52, is an NBA official who has been refereeing games since 2004, according to Basketball-Reference. This year, he gained some notoriety among Lakers fans when he presided over a game featuring a no-call on a potential LeBron James go-head basket that preceded the Lakers losing in overtime to the Boston Celtics. You may remember it more as “the game when Patrick Beverley got a technical foul for showing a referee a picture of the blown call on the team photographer’s camera between regulation and overtime.”
That referee? You guessed it, Eric Lewis.
Lewis admitted right after the game that his team got the no-call wrong in real-time, and the NBA said as much in their Last Two Minute Report the next day. The NBA referee union even admitted that the call was so bad it would cause them “sleepless nights” in a tweet responding to all the social media backlash.
Like everyone else, referees make mistakes. We made one at the end of last night’s game and that is gut-wrenching for us. This play will weigh heavily and cause sleepless nights as we strive to be the best referees we can be.https://t.co/WyN8QVuTOl— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) January 29, 2023
In the midst of all this controversy, Lakers fans found old social media posts of Lewis’ family in Celtics gear that I’m not going to link to here, and one only has to go to Basketball-Reference to see the team that has the highest win percentage in games Lewis officiates.
You guessed it: It’s the Celtics.
While that might seem suspect, we should also note that the list is also mostly just “teams that have been mostly good since Lewis started reffing,” so someone had to be first. It’s at least possible this is just a coincidence. You can draw your own conclusions.
What is the controversy about Eric Lewis now?
It actually has very little to do with that alleged Celtics favoritism, and more to do with Lewis (or someone very dedicated to his reputation) denying it exists.
As my buddy Ricky O’Donnell covered well at the SB Nation main site this week, someone on Twitter found evidence of an alleged burner account created by Lewis that argued with fans anonymously on the social media site that (weirdly) also used his wife’s maiden name.
The account was subsequently deleted, but then later re-activated to claim it was really made by Lewis’ older brother, Mark.
Pablo,— blair cuttliff (@CuttliffBlair) May 26, 2023
This is MARK Lewis. Right family (older brother).
I'm sorry that I put E, in this situation, but this ain't Watergate. You're right, the account WILL be coming down. Twitter should not be this vindictive.
Sorry to inconvenience you.
Soon after all this, NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the NBA was launching an investigation into Lewis’ Twitter activity:
The NBA, I'm told, has opened an official review into Twitter activity unearthed this week with frequent mentions of veteran referee Eric Lewis.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) May 26, 2023
More NBA from me: https://t.co/A6ycVmnrjq
No word on if that investigation will include Patrick Beverley pointing to a camera to show clear evidence of the tweets to the league office, but one can hope (or at least imagine the funniest visual possible).
Will Eric Lewis be punished by the NBA?
All of that brings us to LeBron’s tweet. Now that he has shined his 52.8 million Twitter followers onto this story, it seems fairly likely that the NBA is eventually going to have to comment publicly one way or another on whether Lewis will face any discipline for his tweets, or if he broke any NBA rules.
We’ll see when (or if) that happens, and update you on Silver Screen and Roll if so, but we do know one thing for sure: LeBron will be watching closely to see what happens here, and tweeting about it right along with us.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.