Paul Pierce characterizes his dislike of LeBron James ‘a basketball thing’
Despite how much outsiders would like to think that a rivalry between athletes always extends outside the lines, Brooklyn Nets veteran Paul Pierce insists that his dislike of Lebron James essentially only exists on the basketball court.
In fact, Pierce, who will face the Miami Heat superstar for the 26th time in postseason play on Tuesday night as the Heat host the Nets for Game 1 in the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal series, says the antipathy that exists between the two that goes back to when Lebron was with the Cavaliers and Pierce was with the Celtics is a basketball-only thing.
“I think it is more of a basketball thing,” Pierce said during Tuesday’s shootaround, via ESPN.com. “We are aiming for the same prize and only one of you can get it, you know?
“I mean, it’s going to be a dislike there,” Pierce continued. “That’s nothing that has carried over off the court. I think everything — the dislike for me, LeBron, or Miami or Cleveland — it’s all based on what we are both chasing, and that is about it.”
The rivalry was kicked up a notch early this season, actually, even before the regular season began when Pierce committed a hard foul on James during a preseason game.
All these months later, it’s time for yet another playoff showdown. The fact that whenever their teams square off in the postseason it’s sure to be a hotly contested battle only lends more intensity, passion and competitiveness to the games. James holds only a 13-12 edge over Pierce in the 25 previous head-to-head playoff match-ups.
But when asked if he and Lebron have any kind of off-the-court relationship whatsoever, Pierce indicated not at all.
“No,” Pierce answered. “I really don’t have a relationship with anybody in the NBA outside my teammates. You know? These are guys that I respect. Been to the All-Star Game with a lot of them. It is a mutual respect. That’s all. It is not like I am calling anybody. My friends are pretty much who I grew up with and my family.”
And any bad feelings that do exist between the two fierce competitors will likely intensify in what in all likelihood will be a knock-em-out, drag-it-out series. The Nets swept the season series against the Heat this season, going 4-0, something that surely sticks in LeBron’s craw.
James, meanwhile praised Pierce and said the upcoming match-up in the playoffs “should be fun.”
“I’ve always wanted to compete against the best in the postseason,” James said, via the USA Today. “I’ve always looked at Paul as one of the better guys we have in our league. He’s had the upper edge on me. I’ve had the upper edge on him. It’s another opportunity to see who gets the upper edge.
“It’s big time to go against a Hall of Famer especially in the playoffs. He’s a guy who has made so many big plays and clutch shots in his career and vice versa. It should be fun.”