The modern NBA maybe lacks the amount of trash-talking, antics, and rivalries between players that made the old-school NBA so interesting and fun to watch. But one of the rare players that we saw playing with an old-school mentality of trying to get the best out of their opponent any way they can on the floor, be it with their game or their off-ball antics, is most definitely Lance Stephenson.
Lance blessed us with many exciting highlights and funny antics throughout his career. Still, the most memorable period of his career came back when he was a crucial part of the Indiana Pacers team, battling with the Big 3 Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference crown. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Paul George were the biggest stars of those battles. Still, Lance made sure to step his game up during that time, alongside making sure he tries to provoke and get a physiological advantage over LeBron with some extracurricular activities.
There are too many examples to put in one article, but the most memorable moment to this day is Lance blowing in LeBron’s ear, only to get a priceless reaction. Of course, after some time, Lebron would get annoyed, as the Heat-Pacers rivalry led to the two not liking each other too much. So when Lance joined LeBron on the Los Angeles Lakers ahead of the 2018-2019 season, everyone started wondering, how will the two former rivals work together now?
Lance talked with Chris Haynes on his “Posted Up” podcast and shared how he and LeBron fixed their relationship without too much trouble:
“He just wanted to win, he wanted a team that can help them win and he and we decided to go on that path. I felt like I could definitely help him and be one of those guys to help them during the season. And we never really talked about those barriers, though. We kept it as diverse like, old paths, old news. And we move forward from that.”Lance Stephenson, Posted Up
LeBron being the professional that he is, of course, moved on and just wanted to assemble a team that will be capable of getting to a championship. James and the Lakers front office saw Lance as a valuable asset in their rotation, bringing some veteran presence, skill, and grit off the bench. Considering the competitive nature of those two, they clicked together quickly and became friends.
The two worked well on the court together, as the whole team was slowly starting to click together. But LeBron’s groin injury would put a stop to their season, as they didn’t even manage to make the Playoffs without LeBron. Lance had a solid season, averaging 7.2 ppg and 2.1 apg, but that would be Lance’s last season in the NBA, as he moved on to play in China, with the hopes of making a comeback one day. As we know, LeBron led the Lakers to a championship the very next year. Still, it is nice to see these two former rivals put their differences and history aside for the team’s benefit.