LeBron James and Paul Pierce will be wearing different uniforms from the ones they donned in the playoffs last season when the Washington Wizards host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, but that doesn’t change anything about their longstanding rivalry.
Since 2008, the two NBA stars have become fierce foes, playing against each other in five playoff series over the last seven years. That said, Pierce says his rivalry with LeBron is limited to the court.
“I think a lot of it is misunderstood,” Pierce told CSN Washington. “If I see LeBron walking down the street, it’s not going to be no fistfight. I got a lot of respect for him. The competitive nature of both of us, being at the same position, being on top teams, gunning for the same trophy year in and year out, that’s where that comes in to play. It’s like fighting for the same girl. Why do I want to be cool with that guy?
“I’ve got total respect for him as a person. It’s just the things that we go through are all on the court and that’s where we leave it.”
This is something of a reversal for Pierce, who said last month that he “can’t stand” James and many of the NBA’s younger generation of stars.
After Pierce’s Boston Celtics beat James’ Cavaliers in the first two postseason meetings, James’ Miami Heat won the next three. The most recent series came earlier this year, when Pierce’s Brooklyn Nets succumbed to the Heat in the second round.
Though Pierce is in the twilight of his career and James is still fresh in his prime, there’s no doubt the bad blood will continue to run throughout the rest of the season, especially since the Wizards have shown that they’re going to be competitive in 2014-15.
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images