Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The LeBron James-Lance Stephenson History

By Rob Joyce

April 24, 2018 - 1:48 pm
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The first round of the NBA playoffs looks like it could produce some memorable series, especially in the East. Between back-and-forth games between the Celtics and Bucks, increasing bad blood between the 76ers and Heat, and close battles between the Cavaliers and Pacers, things are feisty. In the latter series in particular, two familiar foes escalating their longtime beef has been one of the main storylines. LeBron James and Lance Stephenson have an odd history, but it’s the type of NBA feud that fans eat up.

Among the trash talk, little jabs and swipes both on and off the court, here are some of the main sticking points between the pair that, over the years, has created tension:

2012 Eastern Conference semifinals:

Despite playing all of 12 minutes in the series, Stephenson started the drama in the waning moments of Game 3. Indiana was in midst of a 94-75 win to go up 2-1 on the juggernaut Heat when Stephenson flashed the choke sign after LeBron missed a free throw. It’s alleged that after the game three Miami players had to be restrained from going into the Pacers’ locker room. Miami wouldn’t lose again in the series.

2014 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 4:

With Miami up 2-1 in the series, Stephenson said James’ trash talk showed a “sign of weakness”. It didn’t work, as LeBron went off for 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in Game 4. But people forget about Game 4, because it’s Game 5 that will live on in meme-famy.

2014 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5:

Stephenson tried to sneak his way into the Miami huddle during one timeout. Then later in the game, the gold standard of the rivalry took place, with Lance famously blowing in LeBron’s ear in an apparent attempt to annoy the superstar. Indiana did win the game as James battled foul trouble and scored only nine points.

In Game 6 Stephenson touched James’ mouth during a timeout in another attempt to get in LeBron’s head, but the Heat closed out the series anyways.

November 1:

With Stephenson playing for the Hornets, Clippers, Grizzlies and Pelicans between 2014 and 2017 (when he returned to Indiana) the feud deescalated for a few years, but picked up again during the regular season. On November 1, Stephenson received a flagrant foul for hitting James in the groin on a drive to the basket.

2018 Eastern Conference First Round:

With the series tied 2-2 there are up to three more games for things to heighten. In Game 1 both of Stephenson’s fouls came against LeBron, and both were reviewed before being deemed unworthy of flagrants. There was also mockery on James’ part, mimicking some of the gestures Stephenson made earlier in the game.

Games 2 and 3 provided the usual chippiness that this relationship is wont to have, but it went to another level in Sunday’s Game 4. In the fourth quarter of a tight game, a LeBron shove turned into a technical when Stephenson sold it and flew backwards. Later, a jump ball led to a little extracurricular activity after the whistle.

Here’s to this series going seven games.