Over the past decade in the NBA, it’s hard to find a better player rivalry in the NBA than Paul Pierce and LeBron James.
The pair has gone toe-to-toe during countless regular season matchups, as well as five postseason series, with LeBron holding a slim 3-2 edge in those playoff matchups.
The rivalry has only gained strength in recent years, as James left Cleveland to form his own super team in Miami to battle Pierce’s Celtics in 2010. Two years later, LeBron worked to help pry away Ray Allen from Boston in free agency, putting an end to the official Big Three era in Boston.
As time has passed, Pierce has made no secret about his disdain for LeBron and a newer younger generation on the court. LeBron’s era of players maintain friendships with opponents around the league much more so than when Pierce was brought up in the league.
“I still can’t stand none of these guys,” Pierce said, referring to LeBron James’ generation in an interview with Mike and Mike back in October.
In an interview Thursday before Pierce’s first head-to-head battle with LeBron with their new teams in Washington and Cleveland, the former Celtic softened up on his stance of LeBron, opening up about the fact that the pair’s rivalry has developed out of respect over the past decade. [Via Michael Wallace of ESPN]
“I think a lot of it is really misunderstood,” Pierce said Thursday. “If I see LeBron walking down the street, it’s not going to be no fistfight. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. It’s like fighting for the same girl. How am I going to be cool with that guy? I’ve got total respect for him as a person. It’s just the thing we go through on the court…It’s just the competitive nature of both of us being at the same position, being on the top teams, gunning for the same trophy year in and year out, and that’s where that comes into play. It’s just something about great players when they play in certain arenas or against other great players. They elevate their play. LeBron is one of those guys. He feels the moment. He understands the moment. And this could be a moment tomorrow.”
Pierce’s words demonstrate why he still remains one of the most respected and beloved players in Boston. His old school mentality on the court is what has earned him the respect of competitors and fans alike over the years.
“We understand how competitive each other are,” James said back in 2012. “It’s always fun to go up against the best, and he’s one of them.”
Pierce and LeBron may very well be on a crash course for their sixth postseason showdown, as the Cavaliers and Pierce’s Wizards are firmly entrenched as Eastern Conference contenders.
If early season performance is any indication, Pierce may have a better chance than expected for his team to come out on top against James once more, sight that would be welcomed by all Boston fans.