Paul Pierce dropped the hottest of hot takes last week when he claimed that LeBron James wasn’t among his top five NBA players of all time.
It was — and remains — a blatant omission by Pierce, considering he’s a knowledgeable former player and James normally is considered as one of the two best to ever play (depending on whether you think he’s better than Michael Jordan). Now we may have some context as to why he left him off.
The two have a well-documented feud, but the origin of that feud came when Pierce spat in James’ eye — almost literally.
The story, as told by Pierce’s former Celtics teammate Kendrick Perkins on ESPN, is that Pierce spit at the Cavs bench during a meaningless preseason game. Perkins said it was a result of the incredible hype James received before he entered the league — and the subsequent disrespect NBA players felt. It’s worth noting that Perkins said the incident occurred in 2003, though it actually happened in 2004.
“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.
“I think Paul, it’s kind of more personal towards LeBron,” Perkins added. “Because there’s no way in hell that you could say LeBron James is not top five. You may not have him as your GOAT, but to say that he’s not top five, that’s just crazy. And I love Paul, but I think it’s more personal than anything.”
That is, indeed, the ultimate disrespect by Pierce. And he owned up to it entirely the next day on “NBA Countdown”:
“You know the crazy thing about it was, it was a preseason game, that didn’t mean anything” Pierce said. “I don’t know, me and LeBron going back and forth, the bench is yelling at something. And I look over at the bench, and I’m like, ‘That’s why y’all are on the bench’ or something, and I spit at them.
“And I’m not sure I hit somebody or not, but I spit in that direction. And then it just kind of — tempers flared up, the next thing you know, we was in the hallway, it was about to go down. That’s just kind of, like, the basis of everything.”