The Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers play their sixth series game in Miami tonight for the Eastern Conference Championship in the NBA. Miami is ahead 3 to 2 in the series. They can close it out tonight. But they could have closed it out Wednesday night after having Indiana down 10+ points much of the game until late in the fourth quarter. Indiana won 93 to 90. That’s despite the fact that Miami’s four-time MVP superstar LeBron James, without question the greatest player in the game nowadays, had to sit the bench much of the evening due to early foul trouble. He only played 24 minutes and had seven points, his worst post-season game in his career. Why?
Lance Stephenson, that’s why! Stephenson was guarding James and harassing him all night. Talking trash and getting under his skin. I think he got fined $10,000 for a flop. But he was all over LeBron. The best was when they were standing side-by-side. It may have been on the foul line, with both players bent over with their hands on their knees, waiting for play to resume. The cameraman then zoomed in on them standing together on screen in such a close-up shot that all you could see on the screen was their head’s and upper bodies. It was such a great camera shot for what was about to transpire. Then, standing on the left side of James, Stephenson turned his face to LeBron’s face, looking at him very close up. LeBron was staring straight ahead, seemingly aware but not paying any attention to his menace. Then Stephenson blew air in LeBron’s ear. I have been an NBA fan almost all my adult life, and I’ve never seen that before. LeBron stayed dead still with his body and head and looked far right, thus in the opposite direction, as if to say, “did yall see that!” Then he went back to looking straight ahead. Then Stephenson did it again. LeBron started barely shaking his head trying to keep from smiling. To me, you could take that as blowing a kiss without the hand movement.
I thought it was so so funny, I howled laughing. But Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird, one of the top five superstars to ever play the game, must not have cracked a smile. Yet Bird is no slouch himself when it comes to trash talking on the court and talking humor. Houston Rockets coach Kevin McKale was Bird’s teammate with the Boston Celtics, and he always said Larry Bird was one of the funniest guys he’s ever known. And Larry Bird and Michael Jordan could go at that face-to-face pretty good talking trash at each other. One of the funniest things I’ve seen in the NBA was when Bird and McKale won one of their NBA championships and in the celebration ceremony right afterwards, their coach Red Auerbach was giving a speech in which he said the accolades should only go to the players. Larry Bird was standing right next to him and he blurted out, “Then you’re overpaid!”
In interviews after the game, Bird said of Lance Stephenson’s blowing in LeBron James’ ear that it was “crossing the line” of what’s fair game. That’s his own player he’s talking about. And Superstar Miami Heat player Dwayne Wade said of the incident, “whatever you get away with is fair game.” As for LeBron, he said, “I’m just here to play basketball.” Ha! That made it more funny to me. LeBron is trying to keep his head in the game, and Lance is trying to get him off track any way he can, whether it’s with body blows or ear blows. I don’t know if Mr. Larry Bird is right or not, but I thought it was hilarious.
Pacers teammates say they never know what in the world Lance Stephenson is going to do next with his antics on the court. He’s built a reputation with his shenanigans. I’m wondering what it’s going to be tonight. Can LeBron James over power everyone like he usually does, charging across the court like a steaming locomotive for a bunch of slam-dunks? Or will Lance Stephenson get on the track and blow some more of his own hot air to derail the charging locomotive?