Paul Pierce recently left Lakers star LeBron James off of his list of the top-five players in NBA history, and since there is no defensible basketball argument to be made for that position, you might have found yourself wondering: Why do Pierce and James not like each other?
No, it’s not because Pierce was satirically declared the GOAT over James on the “Game of Zones” series finale. According to Kendrick Perkins — a teammate of both James and Pierce during their NBA careers — the beef between the two actually traces back to a 2004 preseason game when Pierce decided to show his displeasure for how much hype the then-sophomore James was getting in a super mature way (via Bleacher Report/ESPN):
“Paul is talking noise to the bench, right?” Perkins said. “He’s talking big noise to the Cavs bench, and they’re sitting over there, Bron and them, they’re all sitting over there. ... Paul actually spits over there at the bench, right? The ultimate disrespect.”
Pierce was fined $15,000 by the NBA for his actions, but that was hardly the end of it. The Cavaliers and Boston Celtics were playing on Ohio State’s campus that night, and both locker rooms were located next to each other. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst in 2012, Pierce had to be carried away from James in the hallway after the game to prevent a fight.
Okay first of all: What is with the members of that eventual 2008 Celtics title team and (allegedly) spitting on people? First Rajon Rondo, and now Pierce? Next we’re gonna find out Kevin Garnett was hocking loogies at cast members on “Uncut Gems” or something.
But anyway, as you might expect, that early moment in James’ career did not lead to a whole lot of fondness between the two:
“Ever since that moment,” Perkins said. “LeBron James and Paul Pierce hate each other. They don’t speak to each other. Even now, today.”
It sort of remains unknown what James did other than ... be good at basketball? ... to fuel his side of this feud, but honestly it probably doesn’t matter. The main takeaway from this is a little simpler: If LeBron hadn’t endeared himself to Lakers fans yet, then hating Paul Pierce should probably seal it.