A History of the Rivalry Between King James and His Unlikely Foe
If you watched Indiana’s Game 1 win over Cleveland on Sunday, you may have noticed a little back-and-forth between Lebron James and Lance Stephenson. As many already know, this is far from the first time that the two have gone head-to-head. Despite Lebron’s dominance of Stephenson’s Pacers teams, Lance has been a thorn in James’ side for years. Here’s a brief reminder of a rivalry unlike perhaps any other in the NBA:
2012 was a different time in the NBA. James had yet to conquer his playoff demons, and was less than a year removed from his infamous Finals flop against Dallas. Stephenson was nothing more than a marginal garbage time player for Indiana. Still, Stephenson had the audacity to flash the “choke” sign when Lebron missed a free throw in their second-round playoff series. This drew the ire of Heat veterans Juwan Howard, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem, who tried unsuccessfully to enter the Indiana locker room to confront Stephenson. At the time, little came of the incident. However, Lance was just getting started.
“Blowing” the Rivalry Open:
In the most notorious event in the Lebron-Lance story, Stephenson blew in James’ ear during Game 5 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals. However, Lance’s antagonism did not end there. In the same game, the Pacers guard snuck into the Heat huddle. Perhaps most bizarrely, Stephenson touched Lebron’s mouth in Game 6, causing James to confront his antagonist, before being restrained.
Facts only, LeBron vs Lance is the greatest rivalry of our time. pic.twitter.com/AklRrhkGH1
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) April 15, 2018
Though the Pacers are no longer the primary threat to Lebron’s Eastern Conference supremacy, and Stephenson may not be the player he once was, every so often we catch a glimpse that reminds us of old times. In a November meeting, Lance swiped at the ball and “accidentally” hit Lebron in the groin. In January, Stephenson’s needling caused Lebron to lose his cool, reacting with a forearm shove that resulted in James receiving a technical foul.
The Saga Continues:
Sunday’s game, where Stephenson threw down a ferocious dunk, complete with showboating, shows that although Lebron has dominated meetings between the two, Lance does have his moments. After their January confrontation, James summed up their relationship: “Lance is just a little dirty, that’s all… I mean, we got history, so I should’ve known, though. I’ve known since school that it’s not the guy who tells the joke who gets caught. It’s the guy who laughs. So they caught me on the retaliation.”