LeBron James: NBA suspends star for punch on opponent

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption James was preparing to take a shot when he struck Josh Hart

LeBron James has been suspended for one game after punching an opponent during the Los Angeles Lakers’ 104-99 victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

The US NBA star, 32, landed the blow as he headed down the court during a break in play in the fourth quarter.

Hart, a 20-year-old rookie, got entangled with James before the forward responded.

James, whose team were taking on the Jazz as part of a home-and-away NBA season opener series, has since apologised.

“I regret the incident that occurred,” he said. “It was a competitive play at the end of the game and it shouldn’t have happened.

“I personally apologise to Josh and anybody else that may have been watching at home.”

Hart said after the game he did not appreciate the early warning which prompted James to strike him.

“You’re not gonna hit me when you’re in the air,” he told a television reporter in Salt Lake City.

“I don’t know what he was thinking.”

What has the NBA said?

The NBA says James’ sanction was calculated “on a number of factors”, including when and how it occurred, without taking into account the “stranger-than-fiction” nature of James’ public apology.

“From a league standpoint, it’s our focus on the on-court play,” NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe told reporters on Thursday.

“We don’t want to focus on anything else but the on-court plays that occur.”

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