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How the Pierce-LeBron beef started: "I spat at the Cavaliers bench"


The rivalry between Lebron James and Paul Pierce is one of the rare truly bad-blooded beefs in recent NBA history. The two stars faced each other multiple times and went at it, but the dislike started from the jump. Finally, Pierce revealed what prompted the whole thing to escalate and go all throughout their careers.

The infamous 2003 preseason game

LeBron came into the league as an 18-year old phenom and the next big thing, while Pierce was in the midst of getting into his prime. The hype around LeBron definitely didn't sit well with "The Truth," who decided to establish his presence at first chance.

So back in 2003, during a preseason game that was LeBron's introduction to the NBA, Paul would spit towards the Cavaliers bench. Pierce didn't care that it was an exhibition game. The trash-talk from the Cavs bench mixed with the desire to prove a point to a young LeBron fired Pierce up.

This story was more of a rumor until now, but Pierce recently spoke about that moment and confirmed it:

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"I'm glad social media wasn't out there, because I spit at their bench. I probably would have gotten fined. You know the crazy thing about it was, it was a preseason game, that didn't mean anything. I don't know, me and LeBron going back and forth, the bench is yelling at something. And I look over at the bench, and I'm like, 'That's why y'all are on the bench' or something, and I spit at them. And I'm not sure I hit somebody or not, but I spit in that direction. And then it just kind of — tempers flared up, the next thing you know, we was in the hallway, it was about to go down. That's just kind of, like, the basis of everything."

Paul Pierce, Heavy

Pierce was obviously going after LeBron and chirping along the way, as neither LeBron nor the Cavs intended to back down. That would result in some heated exchanges that ended up with Pierce spitting at the Cavs bench. After the game, things almost escalated, with both teams having to be restrained from fighting in the tunnel. That day would be the starting point of the rivalry between LeBron James and Paul Pierce that lasted for 14 years.

The many battles after

Being in the Eastern Conference for the majority of their careers would result in the two small forwards crashing into each other countless times, during the regular reason and playoffs. During LeBron's first stint with the Cavs, Pierce would dominate James, often bouncing him out in the playoffs. After all, LeBron was just finding his place in the league and getting to his prime, while Pierce formed a superteam in Boston.

But after LeBron formed a superteam of his own in Miami, things quickly switched. LeBron became the undisputed best player in the game, dominating the Eastern Conference for the whole decade, all while bouncing Pierce out of the playoffs multiple times. It was apparent Pierce was declining and getting up there in age while LeBron took over the NBA.

Pierce had a hard time coping with that, as it was obvious LeBron ended up being the better player with far more individual and team accolades. Nowadays, we often hear Pierce speak on matters in the NBA and almost always go against LeBron, diminishing his legacy. After all, that is all "The Truth" can do now in retirement, while LeBron is still going strong at almost 37 years old. I guess old habits die hard.


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