Now I'm sure you're probably saying I'm making excuses because I love LeBron, blah blah blah. Sure, I am defending him because I like watching him play basketball but there's also a point behind it. Facts are facts and the facts are that superstar players get the benefit of the doubt in the NBA. That's how it goes. Last night, LeBron might as well have been me out there. It was almost too obvious that the refs were trying to get him out of the game. It would be different if he was a player who frequently had 4 and 5 foul games but he doesn't. Literally almost never!
Outside of soccer, no professional sports league treats common rule violations like the NBA or basketball in general. Basketball, perhaps unlike many of the other popular professional sports, is truly like a show. Fast paced action with some of the most athletic humans on the planet running fast, jumping high and exciting the crowd all the while competing at the highest level. Even if you hate LeBron James, you buy a ticket to your favorite team's game when you see Miami is on the schedule because you want to see him play. As a true sports fan, you can't help but marvel at the physical prowess that these guys have. Again, even if you hate LeBron, if you see him pick someone's pocket, take about 3 strides from half court and nearly break the rim off, something inside of you is saying, "Holy crap, that was freaking awesome." You're lying to yourself if you say you don't.
So now you've purchased a couple of $100 tickets to see you're team face LeBron and Co. and because the referees aren't on their game or because LeBron has a rare lapse in judgement going for a block, he has 3 fouls and sits for the entire 2nd quarter. Now after halftime, he picks up another quick foul and is out for the entire 3rd quarter. Same thing happens in the 4th and you could have saved $150 by going to any other game of the season because LeBron didn't even play. Like the article above suggests, you can keep the spirit of the 6 fouls and you're out but fouling out is not a good thing for the league and most importantly for the fans. The NFL doesn't toss Tom Brady out of the game because he caused 2 delay of games and committed intentional grounding. That's insane. And the argument, "Well those are the rules. That's how it's always been" isn't a legitimate one, for anything. All things should be considered for change every once in a while to ensure they are operating at their best.
So here are my "Off the top of my head during lunch" ideas to change the NBA 6 foul/foul out rules
Rule 1: No limit of common fouls.
Rule 2: The first 6 fouls are treated in same fashion as currently observed.
Rule 3: Fouls 7 and 8, whether being an offensive or defensive foul, give the offended player 2 free throws and possession to his team.
Rule 4: Fouls 9 and 10 reward the offended team with 2 free throws by any player listed as an active player for the game as well as possession.
Rule 5: Fouls 10+ reward the offended team with 2 free throws by any active player and possession. In addition, the fouler will be fined $10,000 to be donated to charity and his team will be given a 15 second shot clock for the rest of the game.
Rule 6: To prevent a team from emptying its bench to spread many fouls out among all 15 active players, once a team has 5 players with 4 or more fouls: every foul by said team thereafter, regardless of who commits the foul, will result in rule 3 above. Once any player reaches 6 or more the same rules apply to said player while all other fouls will still result in rule 3 above.
So basically, the first 6 fouls remain the same and the penalties increase significantly by every 2 fouls thereafter. If a player reaches double digits in fouls, something is seriously wrong and drastic penalties must be enacted but no matter, the player can still play and "help" his team. Although, by continuing to play with that many fouls isn't helping the team much. With this type of rule structure in place, players will be able to play more freely without really worrying about getting that 3rd foul in the second quarter. However, this type of punishment for the fouling team still takes into account the importance of keeping foul totals down without removing superstars from the floor.
I'm sure there are holes in this theory but I think the NBA needs to take a serious look at this situation. I don't think it wants conference finals games to hang on the officiating but rather on the league's best players.