With the elimination of Dillon Brooks and the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA Playoffs, LeBron James has once again shown us that no matter how much trash players can talk, he will inevitably silence them.
Shortly after the 4-2 series loss, the Grizzlies informed Dillon Brooks that he would not be brought back under any circumstances. An unfortunate ending, but unsurprising for someone who shot 39% in the series, and had a down year in terms of production.
Brooks could have spoken better about many players in the regular season, trash-talking names such as Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Draymond Green. The comments towards The King ramped up as we found out that LA would be playing against Memphis in the first round of the playoffs, but Brooks was quickly silenced, as James averaged 22.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in the upset.
The Grizzlies guard has become yet another name on the list of James’ attempted agitators, but who are these other names on James’ list? Many players have been forgotten, but there are three notable names that have been known as the antagonists in his playoff runs.
Jason Terry is perhaps the only player here who successfully got the best of LeBron. Let’s set the scene: it’s 2011, and James is the villain of the NBA, and perhaps all of professional sports. After breaking the hearts of Cleveland Cavaliers fans everywhere and forming a superteam in Miami, the Heat have run through the playoffs, beating every team in five games before matching up with the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.
The Mavericks are enormous underdogs, with Dirk Nowitzki and company riding a historic run to get to the final matchup. They need someone to stop the Heat’s Big 3, and while Nowitzki was undoubtedly their best player, Terry stepped up big time in the series.
In perhaps what is James’ only blackmark on his legacy, LeBron averaged 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.8 assists, while Terry nearly outperformed him with 18.0 points, 3.2 assists, and 2.0 rebounds per game.
Go back and watch the tapes. Terry was blowing by James, hitting shots while being smothered, and intercepting cross-court passes. It was truly a masterclass by Terry and the rest of the Mavericks en route to their first title in the franchise’s history.
Terry would have seen James again in the second round of the 2014 playoffs had he not been traded from the Brooklyn Nets midseason, but the Heat would make quick work of them anyway, winning in five games. Terry was a nonfactor and still injured at this point, so he most likely would not have made a difference.
DeShawn Stevenson is one of the first LeBron agitators. During his time with the Washington Wizards, Stevenson never averaged more than 11.2 points per game and is remembered as not only one of James’ antagonists, but also your average journeyman. However, Stevenson became more than that during the first round of the 2008 playoffs.
The Stevenson-James beef started with James reportedly saying something about Stevenson to then-teammate Drew Gooden. Stevenson didn’t take too kindly to his words after hearing about this, and while James tried to downplay their conflicts, it was clearly evident throughout the series that the two did not like each other. Credit to James for handling the beef so well, as remember, this was during his first stint in Cleveland, and he was a mere 23 years old.
The Cavaliers would beat Washington in six games, but not without its moments for both sides. Stevenson had an impressive series (for his standards), averaging 12.3 points and 3.0 assists, while having a 19-point outburst in a blowout game 3 victory. James would average 28.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.6 assists in the playoffs, but this series will be remembered for this specific feud.
Funny enough, James and Stevenson would meet again in the 2011 NBA Finals, as Stevenson would win a ring with Dallas as teammates with fellow agitator Jason Terry. For more on the Stevenson-James, I highly recommend checking out this video from Secret Base. They dive deeper into the backstory and the details off of the court.
The Lance Stephenson-LeBron James fiasco is perhaps one of the most famous series of interactions in playoffs history, not because of how good Stephenson was, but because of his incredible antics to try to throw off James. It was poetic and yet ugly at the same time, which made it so entertaining.
We all know the meme of Stephenson blowing into James’ ear, which perhaps summarizes their entire “beef,” if you even want to call it that. Stephenson tried over and over again to get to LeBron, but every time they met, James’ team would prevail.
The first time the two met in the playoffs would be in 2012 when Stephenson was a reserve getting little to no playing time. There was no real conflict there. The following season, however, the antics started to begin with Stephenson getting more playing time. There were definitely some moments where Stephenson would play a little too close on LeBron, and he would take a disliking to it.
The 2014 Eastern Conference Finals provided the most entertaining moments in their series. Stephenson would do everything in his power to stop James, but of course the Heat would win in six games. Whether it be flopping or getting in his face, you have to give Stephenson credit for stepping up to the challenge and giving it his all.
Stephenson actually had a fine series, averaging 14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Whether or not you think he had an effect on The King’s performance, you have to acknowledge the fact that he only put up 22.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists, low numbers for his standards.
Their beef would fizzle out, but not without two more matchups in the postseason during James’ second stint in Cleveland, both of which ended with the Cavaliers prevailing. There was nothing too notable to remember from that era, as Stephenson had less of a presence at that point in Indiana, and would eventually be let go in the 2018 offseason.
In what can only be described as a full circle moment, Stephenson and James would both play for the Lakers in 2019. While Stephenson would eventually be cut, it was fun to watch the two share the court together, and seemingly “squash” any ill-will they had toward each other. Again, extremely poetic.