LANCE: TO LOVE OR TO LOATHE?

lance_stephenson_shhLance Stephenson’s antics in the Eastern Conference Finals earned him more column inches than any other player, and sent the internet berserk with memes. But shouldn’t his will to win and refusal to back down from the game’s greatest earn him kudos rather than criticism?

I don’t get some NBA fans.

They moan about how soft the league is now. About how all the players on rival teams are friends rather than bitter enemies.

They long for a return of Knicks / Bulls-style rivalries. They share videos on Facebook of Jordan getting in Xavier McDaniels’ face or talking shit with John Starks.

They hate how the NBA is all family-friendly now. You can’t show any sort of passion without risking a T.

But then they turn right around and go ballistic at Lance Stephenson’s behaviour during the Indiana / Miami series.

I don’t get this.

Far from being a “needless distraction” as one of my esteemed colleagues put it, I thought it was a breath of fresh air.

Finally there was someone who wasn’t scared of LeBron James.

Whilst every other NBA star is out there “begging friend” with King James – giving him a dap after games, hanging out with him in the off-season, generally kissing his arse – Born Ready showed he clearly didn’t give a damn about tugging on Superman’s cape.

How could you not find this refreshing / exciting / entertaining?

Think back about all your favourite NBA moments. Reggie Miller doing the “choking sign” at Spike Lee or Scottie Pippen getting into it with Patrick Ewing after banging a vicious fast-break dunk in his grill.

It’s these flashes of drama that make the NBA special. Would you really prefer it if the ballers just went out there and played with zero emotion? Or without get into it in any way? I’m not talking about having on-court brawls…but the mind-games, the elbows, the trash talking…it adds a whole extra dimension to the series and cranks the rivalary up to boiling point.

“I have no regrets,” Stephenson said after the Miami series. “I’m very passionate about basketball. I’m very competitive. I love to show my will and my heart when I’m on the floor. Sometimes, I tend to do things that are out of control, but it’s within basketball. It’s my heart, my competitiveness, to win the game.”

We need more guys like this.

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