Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Miami forward LeBron James exchange a few unpleasant… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have become friends since winning a gold medal together at the 2008 Olympics, two of the NBA's biggest stars on solid terms with each other.
But their friendship took a detour during the Miami Heat's 96-80 drubbing of the Lakers on Saturday.
It might be only a temporary flare-up, but Bryant and James engaged in trash-talking in the fourth quarter after Bryant was called for an offensive foul for charging into James Jones.
It didn't last long, barely one trip down the court, but the fact the Lakers were trailing, 89-70, likely had something to do with it.
"Just asked him what he got for Christmas," Bryant said after the game, without a trace of humor.
Said James: "Just two competitors, guys just trying to will their team to victory."
James had the better game Saturday, compiling 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Bryant had 17 points on six-for-16 shooting, along with seven assists and six rebounds.
Bryant continued to draw the attention of referees, picking up his third technical foul in as many quarters after getting hit with one in the second quarter Saturday.
Ejected last Tuesday against Milwaukee after picking up successive technical fouls late in the game, Bryant yelled out in anger when Miami guard Dwyane Wade wasn't called for a foul on Bryant's attempt down low.
Bryant wasn't the only one to get hit with a technical foul.
James and Ron Artest were each called for one after a brief shoving match under the basket that started with Artest's arm around James' head.
"I was in a WWE headlock and I just tried to get out of it," James said. "I got a technical for trying to get out of a headlock."
What next, Artest?
It was a day to remember and also a day to forget for Artest.
He raffled off his championship ring after the Lakers' loss, an act of kindness in which he raised about $600,000 for various mental-health entities.
But he didn't play solid defense against James.
"I thought he had an average night," said Artest, unwilling to give James the upper hand. "Nothing spectacular. It was a great night for others."
James looked spectacular enough, making eight of 14 shots and helping get Artest in foul trouble just 2 minutes 34 seconds into the game, the Lakers forward heading to the bench after picking up his second foul.
"He's been a little disconnected but I don't think it's anything unusual," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said about Artest before the game. "Normal, disconnected Ron. He'll come into focus."
It didn't happen.
Artest scored eight points on three-for-eight shooting. He had an awkward reverse layup attempt that barely touched the backboard in the third quarter and also failed to draw iron on another layup attempt two minutes later.
The Lakers (21-9) were looking at Saturday's game as a way of jump-starting their way out of a gradual slide since an 8-0 start, but they'll have to look elsewhere for momentum.
"Momentum starts when momentum starts," Artest said. "We just need that next game, run off a couple. Stay together, move together and we're going to be OK. We still have each other. There's always a brighter day."
Despite his charitable donation after the game, Artest lamented not raising more money.
"It would have been more but with the season there was no room for extra promotion," he said. "I wanted to see about $2 million. I'm confident I would have got there but the good thing is that a lot of people know what's going on. A lot of people are supporting it."
The raffle was won by Raymond Mikkael, a married father of four who lives in Hawthorne.
Before the game, Artest joked about James' shoes, the Miami star unveiling his latest model during the game.
"I wore LeBrons before," he said. "The first ones I wore were really heavy. It was like a tank. I could've actually individually won a war with those shoes on. No army, no self-defense.
"LeBron's shoes, they were so heavy and so big. They used to hurt my calluses. Now the new and improved LeBron shoes, I really like. Unfortunately, my son likes his shoes also. I'm not happy about it."
Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.