Not many NBA players have the guts to talk smack to LeBron James during a game.
But Juan Toscano-Anderson, fresh off signing his first guaranteed contract a week earlier, had the confidence to do it when the Warriors faced the Los Angeles Lakers in the play-in game on May 19.
"I went into that game like, I belong here, I'm here," Toscano-Anderson told The Ringer's Logan Murdock and Raja Bell this week on "The Real Ones" podcast. "I was starting to gain my own confidence naturally, but then after we played the [Phoenix] Suns a few days before that, Chris Paul came up to me and was like 'Man, I respect you, I respect dogs, I respect your story, how you got in this league.' I got words from [Kevin Durant], a lot of guys from around the league, James Johnson.
"So I came into that game like 'M--------a, I'm here, I belong here and I'm here to play, I'm on this team, I'm one of the guys on the scouting report.' There are some guys that ain't even on the scouting report, let alone even talked about on the scouting report. When I was talking s--t to him ... I'm mad because I let him score. I should have fouled him instead of letting him score. But it's LeBron James, one of the best players in the world. But I'm like 'I'm here. What's up? You gotta score on me, you gotta show me.' He showed me, but that felt fun to be able to talk s--t to LeBron and after he scored on the way back down, he was like 'Man, that was great defense but I'm the best player in the world.'
"Just being able to have that conversation on the floor with a guy like that, that ain't a guy we're just going to talk about for five or 10 or even 15 years from now. People are going to talk about LeBron James like they talk about Dr. J, Mike, Kareem, Magic, for 30, 40, 50, 60 years. So that was fun."
In the second half of the Warriors' crushing 103-100 loss to the Lakers, LeBron drove on Toscano-Anderson and managed to finish a contested layup. JTA didn't foul LeBron like he should have, but it led to a great moment between the two players.
While Toscano-Anderson can joke about it now, LeBron and Lakers forward Anthony Davis said after the game that the Warriors wing and guard Jordan Poole "poked the bear" with their antics during the play-in game.
The 28-year-old Toscano-Anderson, who grew up in East Oakland, spent the early part of his 20s watching LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers face the Warriors in four straight NBA Finals. So facing LeBron himself in a high-stakes game was big for JTA.
"It was a really dope experience," Toscano-Anderson told Murdock and Bell. "I was kind of having out-of-body experiences at the same time because this is something I've always dreamed of, you know, playing at this level. We're playing to get into the playoffs, Steph Curry vs. LeBron. I mean, the last six, seven years I've been watching that matchup like 'Oh, Steph Curry and the Warriors vs. LeBron and the Cavs in the Finals, Steph vs. LeBron here, blah, blah, Christmas Day.' So, to get into the playoffs at Staples Center, that s--t was crazy."
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The Warriors need to retool their roster in order to make the playoffs next season and the Lakers need to reload to bounce back from a disappointing first-round exit this season.
If both teams achieve that goal, Toscano-Anderson and LeBron could meet in a best-of-seven playoff series, giving them plenty of chances to talk trash to each other.