DETROIT • Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was ejected from Sunday's 121-116 National Basketball Association (NBA) road victory over the Detroit Pistons after receiving a flagrant foul for slamming his left fist into the face of Isaiah Stewart.
The strike left a big gash on the forward's face with blood pouring out of it. Enraged, Stewart repeatedly tried to confront James as teammates, coaches and security staff unsuccessfully attempted to calm him down.
The ejection of James for only the second time in his career came in his second contest after missing eight games with an abdominal strain.
The fracas began with Detroit holding a 78-66 lead with 9min 18sec left in the third quarter when James connected with Stewart's face after a free throw.
An irate Stewart confronted James before other players intervened.
He refused to leave the court and kept breaking away and trying to get to James, before eventually getting ejected.
After the situation was reviewed and James was also tossed, the officials had security guards escort the four-time NBA champion to the locker room in case Stewart was plotting another attempt to confront him.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis claimed it was an unintentional act on the part of James.
"Stewart tried to get physical with LeBron and LeBron did the same thing," Davis said.
"Everybody in the league knows LeBron's not a dirty guy. As soon as he did it, he looked back at him and said, 'Oh, my bad, I didn't try to do it.'
"I don't (know) what (Stewart) was trying to do... I've never seen a player try to do that since I've been playing. I know we've seen it before (back) in the day. That was uncalled for.
"You got a cut above your eye, accidentally, it wasn't on purpose. We weren't going to allow him to keep charging our brother like that."
James' other ejection came when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, when he was tossed for arguing four years ago.
Pistons coach Dwane Casey later revealed Stewart received eight stitches to repair the gash and insisted his player should not be disciplined by the league.
"He was upset," Casey said. "He shouldn't be facing anything. Not getting off the court in time (is a small thing). I don't see any ramifications from the league on that."
The two teams meet again on Sunday in Los Angeles.