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A decade of random NBA players beefing with LeBron James while losing to him

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Stanley Johnson is talking trash to LeBron. That's a bad idea!

LeBron James is playing really well against the Pistons. In Game 1, he had 22 points and 11 assists in a Cavaliers win. In Game 2, he had 27 points on just 18 shots in a 17-point Cavaliers win. That's pretty good, right? The Cavaliers are up 2-0, after all.

But Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson thinks he's got LeBron right where he wants him:

"I'm definitely in his head, that's for sure," Johnson said after a 107-90, Game 2 loss to the Cavs. "That's for sure."


"He laces his shoes up the same way I lace my shoes up," he said. "He has to come out there and compete and make his shots. He doesn't come prepared. That's the NBA. Anybody and everybody can get busted any night. From the last guy on the bench to the first guy out. He's going to have to strap his shoes in every night tight because I'm going to strap my shoes in every night tight."

Johnson went on to rag on the rest of the Cavs:

"He jabbers," Johnson said of James. "He moves his mouth sometimes. Their whole team does, kind of like their little cheerleaders on the bench. Every time you walk in the right corner. They're always saying something like they're playing basketball, like they're actually in the game. There's only seven or eight players who play. I don't see why the other players are talking. They might as well just be in the stands, in my opinion."

Johnson clarified his comments on Friday, but the damage was already done.

Now, listen: I like Stanley Johnson. I think he's got an NBA body and I think he'll be a good NBA player. But right now, he's getting absolutely worked. Per ESPN, LeBron is 13-for-15 from the field when Johnson is his primary defender this series.

I don't think Stanley Johnson's words are making a significant difference: LeBron is better than young Stanley even when not particularly motivated, and the rest of the Cavaliers are better than the rest of the Pistons. But he's not the first player to trash LeBron in a playoff series, and he's not the first to look kinda silly as LeBron wins. Let's take a look back at the great one-sided feuds of LeBron's decade-plus in the year.

DeShawn Stevenson

The Wizards were LeBron's earliest foil. In LeBron's first playoffs in 2006, Cleveland beat Washington in a brutal six-game series, winning both Games 5 and 6 by one point in overtime. In 2007, the teams were matched up again, but an older, better LeBron swept a shorthanded Washington squad missing Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. In 2008, the teams were matched up again, and professional irritant DeShawn Stevenson had enough.

In March, the Wizards led the Cavs by two in a tight game. Stevenson drew the responsibility for guarding James on the game's deciding possession, and James pulled up and missed a three. In the postgame interview, Stevenson stated his his opinions about James:

"He's overrated," Stevenson said. "And you can say I said that."

When the two faced off, he reiterated that opinion:

"If you look at the games and what's going on, I know when I go to sleep I know we have to play LeBron James. When I go to sleep and know we have to play the Lakers, I know it's going to be a long night. It's the difference between the Kobes and LeBrons. Not saying he will never get there, but that's what I'm saying."

James said he wouldn't respond to the criticism by responding to the criticism, saying that responding to Stevenson would be like "Jay-Z saying something bad about Soulja Boy."

The point he was making was clear: Jay-Z is a legend of hip-hop, Soulja Boy had one really big hit that was mainly popular due to its corresponding dance craze. Jay-Z made The Blueprint, Soulja Boy made a song called "Doo Doo Head."

DeShawn's response wasn't to deny his connection to a man who once made a song called "Doo Doo Head." Instead, he embraced it. Soulja Boy came to the first game of the series in Washington wearing a DeShawn Stevenson jersey:

LeBron had called DeShawn a nobody jokester. DeShawn basically said "hey, maybe a nobody jokester can win."

It didn't work: LeBron scored 30 points four times and had a 27-point triple double in a series-clinching Game 6. Jay-Z actually recorded a diss cover of Too Short's "Blow the Whistle" meant to defend LeBron and performed it at a Washington night club. Stevenson's teammate, Caron Butler, was there, but left because he felt disrespected. Not only did the Wizards lose, they had a famous rapper perform a diss track at their expense at a popular club in their own city. The fields were burned, the earth salted.

Brandon Jennings

The Bucks squeaked into the playoffs in 2012-13, going 38-44. As a No. 8 seed, they were massive underdogs against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat, who boasted LeBron, plus his pals Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In spite of this, Brandon Jennings saw his team winning:

"I'm real confident. I'm sure everybody is writing us off but but I see us winning the series in six."

He doubled down on the comments in an interview with TNT, leading to an all-time face-glaze from Dwyane Wade:

The Heat won the first two games of the series ... and down 2-0, Jennings reaffirmed his belief.

"I still said six," Jennings told Craig Sager after Game 2. "So we’ll see what happens. Might take a little longer."

In spite of Jennings' continued "Bucks in Six" proclamation, the end result was Heat in four.

Lance Stephenson

Man, what is it with guys named Stephenson/Stevenson?

Like DeShawn before him, Stephenson's job is to annoy people. He's been doing it for a while. In 2012, as a second-year player who rarely played, he filled his role from the bench when faced off against LeBron. First, Stephenson made a choking gesture from the bench after LeBron missed a free throw:

"(I) try to talk to other players, but in a good way. Get them off their game a little bit but not being disrespectful. I just got out of hand one time, and I'll never do it again."

James didn't like it:

"Lance Stephenson? You want a quote about Lance Stephenson?" James said after the Heat's practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "I'm not even going to give him the time. Knock it off."

It wasn't reported at the time, but Danny Granger claims the Heat went searching for Stephenson in the locker room after the game. Regardless of whether that story is true, Juwan Howard confronted Stephenson on the court before the next game, even though neither guy really played much.

Fast-forward two years, and Stephenson had a big role. In fact, he was the guy the Pacers primarily assigned to guard LeBron. And he was just as annoying on the court as off, coming to the height of his powers in Game 5:

Of all the silly moments in NBA history, I think the time Lance Stephenson blew in LeBron James' ear as the silliest.

Stephenson attempted to literally occupy space in James' head by blowing air into it. It did not work. The Heat would end the series in the next game with a 25-point win.

Joakim Noah

I'm not quite sure what got into Joakim in the 2015 playoffs. He shoved a fanragged on Cleveland and everybody from there, and said this after getting viciously dunked on by LeBron:

There is no good response to getting dunked on, but ACTUALLY I HATE YOU is not a good one. The Cavaliers won the series in six.

* * *

One of these stories has a happy ending: In 2011, DeShawn Stevenson found himself on the Mavericks as the Heat went for their first NBA title. Instead of goading LeBron and making headlines, he kinda just shut up. He even said his feud with LeBron was "pretty much over."

The Mavericks won the NBA championship, and people besides DeShawn Stevenson called LeBron James overrated.

It's not possible to beat LeBron by saying things about him. It is possible to beat him by being better at basketball. In fact, a team has managed to do this many years since he's been in the league.

If you're outmatched, just be outmatched. Ragging on one of the best basketball players of all time is just going to make your eventual defeat more embarrassing.