By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Paul Pierce not putting LeBron James in his Top 5 list of the NBA’s greatest players ruffled some feathers on Wednesday. Kendrick Perkins, a former teammate of both players, is here to explain the truth behind Pierce’s beef with LeBron.
Essentially, Pierce has never liked LeBron, and the feeling was mutual very early in James’ career. And it all started with some saliva.
“Paul Pierce’s list is personal. We don’t talk about this, but Paul and LeBron have never liked each other since LeBron’s rookie year,” Perkins explained on ESPN’s Hoop Streams (video above). “Here’s the backstory to this real quick, and you can understand why LeBron is not on Paul’s list. We’re playing in Columbus, Ohio my rookie season against the Cleveland Cavaliers. You know when LeBron was coming into the league he was getting a lot of heat from players; ‘he’s not going to do that to us’ … ‘The chosen one’ … ‘Wait until you play against grown men.’
Perkins recalls this occurring during his and LeBron’s rookie season, but it was actually their second year in the league when the C’s and Cavs met in the preseason. During the game in question, James threw down an uncontested dunk and followed it up with a tough-guy act toward the Boston bench. Pierce did not appreciate said actions.
“Paul was talking noise to the bench, big noise to the Cavs bench,” said Perk. “Paul actually spits over there at the bench, the ultimate disrespect. It ended up turning up. I mean, after the game, both teams, guys were meeting in the back. Guys were ready to fight and we had to hold people back. Ever since that moment, LeBron James and Paul Piece hate each other. They don’t speak to each other, even now today.”
A little spit can go a long way in the NBA. It’s clear that Pierce started this beef, one of the many stars of the NBA who didn’t appreciate a young pup coming in and being anointed “The King” before he did anything in the league. And you could tell as Pierce and LeBron engaged in numerous battles during their intersecting careers that they had no love for each other.
At least it led to a thrilling Game 7 showdown back in 2008. Pierce and his Celtics also ruined LeBron’s first go-around in Cleveland in 2010. The others … well this is a Boston website, so let’s just leave it at that. There’s no need to mention that James got some postseason revenge with the Heat the following season, then essentially ended the run of the Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen Celtics in 2012.
Pierce has been taking a lot of heat for his statement on Wednesday, though it’s really not too outrageous when you look at his Top 5 and hear him out. Pierce listed Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant as his five greatest players to play basketball. He said LeBron isn’t among those greats because they all “helped build up their organization or continued the tradition.”
Pierce gave his haters more to chew on too, listing two more players not named LeBron to round out his Top 7.
All the people I named where part of a dynasty 🤷🏾♂️#6 Shaq #7 Duncan
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) May 20, 2020
Maybe leaving LeBron out of his Top 5 (and Top 7) is a little bit petty (or a whole lot petty), but it’s nothing compared to the ridiculous ridicule Pierce has been getting. Check out this outrageous Tweet from Yahoo Sports.
Paul Pierce left LeBron James off his top 5 all-time list.
We're just gonna drop this here… pic.twitter.com/SagQVQAk7V
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) May 20, 2020
What are we doing here, folks? Now THAT is one salty way to rag on Pierce for having an opinion.
If you thought the Pierce-LeBron beef would get squashed now that Pierce is done playing, it doesn’t appear that slate will be wiped clean anytime soon.