The incident happened with 9:18 remaining left in the third quarter and the Pistons leading 78-66 in at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Detroit’s Jerami Grant had just made a free throw as James and Stewart jostled for position in case Grant missed the foul shot.
James swung his left forearm with force and struck Stewart in the face with his fist, causing significant bleeding near Stewart’s right eye. At first, James tried to calm the situation, but Stewart still took offense, setting of a wild scene that took several minutes to resolve.
“Upon the free throw, the initial contact deemed a loose ball foul by Isaiah Stewart and then a dead ball act by LeBron James, deemed a Flagrant Foul Penalty 2 for unnecessary and excessive contact above the shoulder,” referee Scott Foster explained, adding, “Isaiah got two technical fouls for multiple unsportsmanlike acts during the altercation.”
Several Pistons, including coach Dwane Casey, rookie Cade Cunningham and security, tried to restrain Stewart, who knocked multiple people over trying to go after Lakers players.
“Fans, stay in your seats. Do not go onto the floor,” the Pistons public address announcer stated, trying to ensure the situation did not escalate to include fans.
It took nearly two minutes to get Stewart, who faces a suspension and fines, off the court. Russell Westbrook was issued a technical foul following the melee.
James was issued a flagrant foul 2 and ejected for just the second time in his career. The game against Detroit was his second game back after missing eight consecutive games with an abdominal strain. He had 10 points and five assists at the time of the incident.
The Lakers won 121-116 after the Pistons gave away a 17-point, second-half lead, spoiling Cunningham’s first career triple-double.
The Pistons and Lakers play again in Los Angeles on Nov. 28.
Stewart, 20, is a big part of Detroit’s future. He made the All-Rookie team in 2020-21 and is averaging 7.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks and shooting 54.7% from the field.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LeBron James ejected after altercation with Pistons’ Isaiah Stewart