Hate between Paul Pierce, Cavs GOAT LeBron James goes back to 2003 spitting incident, says Kendrick Perkins

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James handles the ball. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James handles the ball. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ best player ever, LeBron James, and Paul Pierce have never been the best of buddies, to say the least. They had playoff battles against each other, sure, but the animosity between the two goes back to a 2003 spitting incident, per Kendrick Perkins.

It’s clear that the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ best player ever, LeBron James, and Paul Pierce, whose best years were as a star forward on the Boston Celtics, never were friends. That’s putting it lightly, really.

Back earlier on in James’ career, he and Pierce had their share of battles, and that was most notably in the postseason. Pierce’s C’s eliminated the Cavs in the postseason twice, and much to Pierce’s displeasure, along with others, which included us Cavs fans, LeBron (formally via sign-and-trade) joined up with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and others before the 2010-11 season.

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That then led to the Heat dispatching Boston twice in the postseason thereafter, and from there, James was a mainstay in the NBA Finals.

Combining his years with Miami and his second stint with the Cavaliers, James went to eight straight NBA Finals, and we’ll never forget the Wine and Gold’s historic 3-1 comeback over the Golden State Warriors, of which Bron led all players in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks, per Basketball Reference.

Anyway, recently, given The Last Dance, a 10-part documentary series on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls and of which Michael Jordan played a leading role, wrapping up on Sunday, Pierce in a conversation on ESPN’s NBA Countdown gave his all-time NBA starting five.

While everyone has their own opinion, LeBron, who is as unique of terms of all-around skill set as there has been in NBA history, was not on Pierce’s even top five ever. That was ridiculous.

Pierce basically alluded to how he believes James hasn’t elevated a team to excellence and/or carried on a team’s storied tradition, and noted how James seemed to join up with other players to take a next step.

That’s a stretch, and the Cleveland Cavaliers even getting to the 2007 NBA Finals was frankly, entirely because of him, and he was 22 at the time. James made the Cavs in his first stint into a winner, too.

Either way, LeBron not being in Pierce’s top five also seemed to be because of the two never being fond of each other, to put it pleasantly.

That beef between James and Pierce started back in 2003, and actually in a preseason game when James was a rookie for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

On an appearance on ESPN’s Hoop Streams on Thursday, Pierce’s and also James’ former teammate, Kendrick Perkins, emphasized how the beef between the two began in James’ first NBA season in the preseason in 2003, as h/t Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston/via Yahoo! Sports.

Perkins gave some further input regarding that situation, and hearing this from Perkins explains a ton about James and Pierce being bitter rivals early on, as transcribed by Hartwell.

"“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.”"

Perkins then stressed how even though it was just a preseason game, there would be added tension from that point, and that after the contest, it was reaching a boiling point, as Hartwell transcribed.

"“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.”"

Hartwell would go on to say how this sort of hate between Pierce and James also plays into Pierce and other prior C’s teammates, such as Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, who won a ring in 2008, still holding a grudge in relation to Allen joining James and the Heat in 2012. That was according to Allen in an appearance on the Cedric Maxwell Podcast.

Pierce would later confirm this from Perkins via NBA Countdown, too.

Moreover, hearing about this spitting incident in 2003 from Pierce at the Cleveland Cavaliers bench is very telling, and frankly, it explains a whole lot.

Also, it’d be interesting to hear what Pierce would say if LeBron and his now-Los Angeles Lakers, who had the Western Conference’s best record going into the novel coronavirus-induced hiatus, went on to win a title in 2020.

Given recent reported details, of which you can view here and also here, it seems likely that the NBA will be able to resume the 2019-20 season, and even in his 17th season, James at this point is averaging 25.7 points, a league-leading 10.6 assists, 7.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.

Again, though, this spitting incident Perkins hit on beginning this James-Pierce beef is something else.

Next. Cavaliers: Top 30 all-time greatest players. dark

Spitting in the direction of people on an opposing bench? That’s nasty, man.