LeBron James

Kendrick Perkins reveals unhygienic origin of Paul Pierce-LeBron James beef

Kendrick Perkins reveals unhygienic origin of Paul Pierce-LeBron James beef

What's with the animosity between Paul Pierce and LeBron James?

We know Pierce's Boston Celtics had some heated playoff battles with James' Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat back in the day and that Pierce doesn't consider LeBron a top-five NBA player, but is there more to the story here?

According to Kendrick Perkins, there certainly is.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

Perkins, who played with Pierce in Boston and James in Cleveland, joined ESPN's "Hoop Streams" on Thursday to reveal that the Pierce-LeBron beef goes all the way back to the preseason of James' rookie year, when the Cavs opened against the Celtics.

 

"When LeBron was coming into the league, he was getting a lot of heat from players. ... 'The Chosen One?' Wait 'til he play against grown men,' " Perkins recalled. "So, his first preseason game is against Paul Pierce."

"Paul is talking noise to the bench, right? 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."

Needless to say, James didn't appreciate being spit at.

Listen and subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast:

"It ended up turning up," Perkins said. "After the game, both teams were meeting in the back. Guys was ready to fight.

" ... Ever since that moment, LeBron James and Paul Pierce hate each other. They don’t speak to each other even now, today.”

Pierce and James met in four playoff series over a five-year span between 2008 and 2012, which surely added fuel to their rivalry. (The Celtics went 2-0 against James' Cavs but 0-2 against James' Heat.)

But Perkins' insight explains why there's a different level of hatred between The Truth and The King -- and why Pierce and his ex-Celtics teammates still hold a grudge against Ray Allen for joining James in Miami in 2012.

Paul Pierce takes heat for insisting LeBron James isn't a top-5 NBA player

Paul Pierce takes heat for insisting LeBron James isn't a top-5 NBA player

If Paul Pierce is in the news these days, it's usually for one of two reasons: 1) It's the anniversary of one of his great performances; or 2) He delivered a highly questionable basketball take.

Tuesday night brought us No. 2.

During a spirited debate on ESPN's "NBA Countdown" about the best NBA players of all time, the former Boston Celtics star listed several players who weren't LeBron James.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

"Bill Russell built up the organization in Boston. He should get way more credit than we give him, and a lot of times he gets left out of the conversation," Pierce said. "So in saying that, Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), Magic (Johnson), (Michael) Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kobe (Bryant), (Larry) Bird. These guys are all-time top 10 players who either helped build up their organization or continued the tradition."

In Pierce's view, James doesn't belong in that same conversation because he loaded his championship teams with stars rather than build them from the ground up.

"He went and put together a team in Miami, and in some ways, he came back to Cleveland to put that team together, and then he went to the Lakers, where a tradition has already been made," Pierce said.

So, is Pierce really saying James isn't one of the five best basketball players of all time? Why yes, he is.

Listen and subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast:

"You wanna hear my top five? You want to hear it again?" Pierce continued. "Jordan, Kareem, Russell. And you know who the fourth one is? Magic. Now you know who’s in my top five? Kobe Bryant.

"That’s my top five. Argue with it."

The internet happily obliged, as professional athletes and casual fans alike ripped Pierce for his anti-LeBron slander.

As many pointed out, Pierce isn't exactly an impartial observer: His Celtics had several playoff battles with James' Cavaliers and Heat teams, a handful of which LeBron won.

James also effectively broke up Boston's "Big Three" when he scored 31 points in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, as Ray Allen signed with Miami that following offseason.

So, "The Truth" may have an agenda in leaving James out of his top five -- and the internet is letting him have it.

Antoine Walker describes historic pickup games with Michael Jordan, young LeBron James

Antoine Walker describes historic pickup games with Michael Jordan, young LeBron James

He didn't know it at the time, but Antoine Walker may have participated in the most talent-laden pickup games ever.

The former Boston Celtics star and Chicago native joined 670 The Score's "McNeil & Parkins Show" on Tuesday to share the great story about how he got roped into pickup games with Michael Jordan during the summer of 2001.

"He called me," Walker said. "And he was like, 'Hey, I'm thinking about making a comeback. I need you in the gym with me.' "

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls in 1998 but indeed returned for the 2001-02 season to play for the Washington Wizards. So, prior to his return, Jordan recruited Walker and a number of other NBA stars including Michael Finley, Juwan Howard, Quentin Richardson and Corey Maggette for a series of daily pickup runs.

Those runs also included LeBron James, then a 16-year-old high schooler from Akron, Ohio.

"We treated LeBron like a 16-year-old," Walker recalled.

James apparently recalled the same thing, revealing Monday in a video for UNINTERRUPTED that the group made him sit out for long stretches before finally letting him play.

James also remembers Walker and Jordan being fiercely competitive as captains for their respective squads.

"Him and Antoine Walker was just talking so much s--- back and forth, back and forth," James said.

"Very competitive," Walker said of he and Jordan's jawing. "All we talked about every day was winning. He used to give me so much stuff about not winning a championship."

Listen and subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast:

Walker only made the playoffs four times during his eight seasons in Boston, but he was in his prime during these pickup sessions: He averaged a career-high 23.4 points per game during the 2000-01 season and was an All-Star for Boston the next two seasons.

Walker also was a notoriously high-volume shooter -- which explains why he was never on Jordan's team during their pickup games.

"He likes to get less aggressive guys," Walker said. "Like, he'll take a Bobby Simmons, the guys that aren't really looking to score the basketball, so he can work on his game."

Those pickup games helped Jordan return for two more seasons with the Wizards -- and allowed Walker to share the court Jordan and James, arguably the two greatest NBA players ever.