When Paul Pierce went on ESPN and LeBron James isn't a top-five player in NBA history, we all rolled our eyes. Pierce's rationale was even worse, that James had never built an organization from the ground up and that he had "put together" teams in Cleveland and Miami.
This is hilariously foolish.
You can argue about whether Kobe, Magic or Kareem is the greatest Laker, or whether Bird or Russell is the greatest Celtic, but like Jordan with the Bulls, there is absolutely no doubt that LeBron James IS the Cleveland Cavaliers. Pierce doesn't like stars winning with super-teams? Do we even need to point out the obvious that his only championship came after the Celtics added Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen?
Pierce clearly has something personal against LeBron, with whom he has beefed for years. It's understandable, sort of a poorer version of Jordan and Isiah Thomas, two rivals who had multiple heated playoff showdowns. But apparently it runs deeper than that.
As Kendrick Perkins, Pierce's former teammate in Boston, recently laid out, Pierce spit at LeBron, or in his direction at least, during a preseason game back in 2004. To be fair, Perkins says a lot of stuff, much of it utter nonsense like when he recently said James Harden is a better player than Stephen Curry because "as soon as [Harden] stepped foot into the Rockets franchise, he made that franchise relevant again." Because Curry didn't make the once-laughingstock Warriors relevant at all.
So anyway, Perkins spoke and I instinctively tuned out. But then Pierce confirmed the story.
"You know the crazy thing about it was, it was a preseason game, that didn't mean anything," Pierce said during a virtual ESPN roundtable. "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 if 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 were in the hallway, it was about to go down. That's just kind of, like, the basis of everything."
"I'm glad social media wasn't out then because I spit at they bench. I probably would've got fined." @paulpierce34 confirms @KendrickPerkins' story that him spitting toward the Cavs bench started his beef with LeBron. pic.twitter.com/k1DbLKhcQq— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 22, 2020
Who's to say if this incident remains the root of Pierce's clear beef with James, but I will say this: If it is, it's kind of backward. it would be a lot more understandable if LeBron was the one that spit at Pierce. If all LeBron did was talk a little trash to a player he wound up being way better than, Pierce needs to chill out. It sounds a lot like a player who was simply annoyed by the attention LeBron was getting back then, and an analyst that remains annoyed now. Not a great look.