LeBron James fumed at the decision to rule his potential game-tying shot a two-pointer after the Los Angeles Lakers were beaten by the Minnesota Timberwolves on his 39th birthday, asking: "What do we have replay for?"
The NBA's all-time leading scorer had no cause to celebrate on Saturday despite finishing with 26 points and six assists as the Lakers slipped to 17-16 with a 108-106 road loss.
James thought he'd levelled things up when he sank a big shot with 3.3 seconds remaining, only for the league's replay centre to rule it a two-pointer rather than a three.
The four-time MVP got another chance with 1.4 seconds on the clock after Anthony Edwards only made one of two free throws at the other end, but he failed to get his shot off before the buzzer.
Speaking to reporters in the locker room after the Lakers' fifth defeat in eight games, Lebron's mind was drawn to his potential leveller.
"It's obviously a three," James said. "My foot is behind the line.
"You can see the space between the front of my foot and the three-point line. You can clearly see white, the wood on the floor is the space between the front of my foot and the three-point line.
"What the hell have we got replay for? What do we have replay for if even the replay gets it wrong?
"It's just like, who is a part of the replay centre? Have we got robots in there making Teslas? What's going on?"
Came down to the end pic.twitter.com/rgSnh1F5IH— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 31, 2023
Reflecting on his later missed opportunity, James added: "I kind of misread that.
"I've been in that situation before. I've just got to do a better job of knowing time. I could have caught it and shot right away."
After the game, crew chief Tony Brothers explained a lack of evidence left the replay team unable to overturn the two-point call, saying: "The play was ruled a two-point field goal on the floor during live play.
"After video review, there wasn't clear and conclusive evidence to overturn it from a two to a three, and that's why it stood as a two-point field goal."
Lakers coach Darvin Ham disagreed, saying: "The view I had, I thought it was a clear-cut three. Our guys on the sideline replayed it. We thought it was a good three."
Anthony Davis saw his dominant 33-point, 17-rebound performance proved redundant as the Timberwolves improved to 24-7, with Edwards scoring 31 points for the Western Conference leaders.