Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 at 4:50 pm  |  59 responses

LeBron James Says There’s ‘No Real Rivalry in the NBA’

by Marcel Mutoni @ marcel_mutoni

Miami Heat superstar LeBron James has never really bought into the rivalry narrative — be it on an individual level, or between teams.

Tuesday night, prior to the big showdown in Indiana between the Heat and Pacers, LeBron declared that true, hate-filled rivalries no longer exist in the NBA.

Per the Palm Beach Post:

“What is a rivalry these days?” he pondered rhetorically. “A rivalry is Celtics-Lakers. They met like four out of five years. Bulls-Pistons. Those are rivalries. We’ve played these guys two years in the playoffs and guys automatically make it a rivalry. There’s no real rivalry in the NBA these days. You don’t see the competition enough. These teams are really, really good teams striving to win a championship. But rivalries, man? There are no more rivalries.

“It’s the truth. I’ve thought about that. There’s no more rivalries. There isn’t. Cowboys-Redskins is a rivalry. Ohio State and Michigan is a rivalry. Duke and North Carolina is a rivalry. [Dwyane Wade interrupts with, ‘Bears-Packers’] Bears-Packers is a rivalry.”

Before the Pacers’ 90-84 win last night, the Heat did everything they could to downplay the significance of this first meeting of the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. Indiana and their rabid fans, meanwhile, seemed a lot more fired about the whole thing.

LeBron allowed that, despite his belief that no true NBA rivalries exist anymore, should these two squads clash again in the Playoffs, he’s open to changing his mind.

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  • Tobias Fernandez

    Well, because the NBA has become the softest sport in the world thanks to the reffing and the flopping and such I mean like they don’t even really allow trash talking they just give u a silly tech and a fine that’s why there are no true rivalries anymore in my opinion.

  • pposse

    The Miami Heat KNOW there would be a budding rivalry with the Chicago Bulls if our superstar was on the court no if’s ands or buts about it.

  • shockexchange

    And as long as he’s armed with “The LeBron Rules … Keys to Stopping LeBron James”, the balance of power will remain in Miami. What has the Shock Exchange wrought?

  • Lenin-Gil Phillips

    So true man. A heated competition is always the best competition it is really sad to see the game become really be soft. Too many teams hand shaking before and after games, players saying, “Sorry for the hard foul,” and then helping their opponent’s up none of that should happen if u really want true rivalries.

  • Tobias Fernandez

    Yup, sure they have to respect each other’s game but the two teams should hate each other when they play on the court and trying to give each other a beat down.

  • bike

    He’s right. The likelihood of two NBA teams–regularly competing for a championship for many years–remaining intact is just too small anymore. And there is more to a true rivalry than two teams going at it–there is usually a lengthy history that perpetuates the competition.

  • JML-G

    not rly, Bulls couldnt win it all with DRose and couple allstars ever

  • Tobias Fernandez

    The contract money and players wanting to team up also hurts to really establish true rivalries.

  • i_ball

    If Miami resigns their star players there will be a rivalry between them and the Pacers.

    In the West it will be hard a serious rivalry – too many more or less equally strong teams, so a little chance of 2 or 3 teams really dominating the conference.

    But LeBron is not completely right, remember the Spurs – Suns games not so long ago. If the situation is right there will be a rivalry.


  • pposse

    that claim has yet to be proven.

  • i_ball

    Actually the Bulls really don’t like the Heat so it could have been. But I guess we will have to wait at least a year and a half to find out.

  • RedDragon10

    Yeah because that five game domination in 2011 indicated a real rivalry.

  • pposse


  • Jerome

    Sounds like fear LeBron. Pacers played terribly in the 1st half …. Heat in the 2nd. Pacers outplayed Heat in every way. No rivalry indeed.

  • Logan Heath Sharp

    Ask the pacers how it feels to play in june. Oh yeah none of them know. Especially david wests crybaby a$$. Yeah im not even a heat fan but the pacers are bums and your a dumba$$

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    wake up

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    what power level have you achieved…….9000 lol vegeta was kobe lebron s goku and tmac is gohan and kd is trunks

  • Feez_22

    … thought this train had sailed already … oh well.

  • pposse

    i just dont understand why lebron would say this..actually i do have a theory…it relieves pressure which is symptomatic with everything LBJ does..i wont get too into it but if Paul Curios Gumby George just called KD a harder cover than Bron then the Lebron dropped what 16 points? I know he is not 100% at the moment but the next time he see’s the Pacers how about personally go and attack PG over and over or go for a triple double..some of these guys want to be the Heats rivals Lebron and Wade need to stop acting like they are above all that. IF the Thunder was in the east there would definately be a rivalry between the Heat and Thunder RW personality won’t allow him to like LBJ or Wade and KD would fall in line behind his point guard for sure.

  • Feez_22

    Everything lbj does relieves pressure? Huh?

    We’re talking about a 4x mvp on the most scrutinized team i’ve seen since the 80s pistons. Everything lebron does brings about critique. When you are expected to win year in year out, you have the most pressure.

    The pacers actually are playing without pressure. They are playing with house money. People think they could dethrone the heat but if they don’t people won’t criticize them like crazy. If the heat lose, they will be demolished by the media with ppl calling for them to trade everyone.

    I think that lebron was just speaking his mind. TBH, what is he saying that isn’t correct? What rivalries exist in the nba? I don’t see any. Pacers/heat could become one but that matchup needs more animosity and may need one more 7 game series (pref. a pacers win). The heat don’t seem to “hate” the pacers. The pacers denying them from a 3 peat would do it.

  • Ugh


  • Ugh

    Nothing of consequence, that’s for sure.

  • Ugh

    I don’t know about that. The Celtics had a few ringers, like Walton, and the Sixers managed to get Moses on the team to get a ring. Those guys maintained a pretty vicious rivalry.

  • brothasdontsurf

    This is why Kobe is needed in the NBA still

  • JML-G

    nothing is softer than baseball

  • ado

    pssshh no rivalries? cause you joined wade and bosh in miami that’s why.

  • havoc33

    LOL. Lebron wants to be friends with everyone, that’s just who he is. But he’s got his reasons. I’m quite sure he’s already talking to three four other allstars about forming his new World Allstar Super Dream Team once he leaves Miami.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe
  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    that’s what i

  • cgeorge22

    Bulls heat

  • pposse

    Everything LBJ does relieves pressure. Yes! Examples: Join forces with Wade and Bosh, recruit Ray Allen

    Regardless of LBJ’s decisions on whom he plays ball with, he is under constant pressure by the media…thats just his life. He was annointed as the NBA savior since he was 16. So now your telling me that when you make a decision to play with Wade (probably second best baller in the L when he joined with him) and Bosh that somehow the pressure just increased? No, the complete opposite happened, anyone with a working mind knew that these were perfect pieces for Lebron and that Championships were guaranteed…pressure relieved.

    I didn’t comment on the pressure the Pacers are playing with, they didn’t ask PG or anyone else if there was a rivalry, they asked Lebron so why bring up the Pacers? Alls I’m saying is that if Lebron admitted that there in fact was and is a rivalry with the Pacers then the media would def. jump on it and hype the game up more which in turn would ratchet up the pressure, something Lebron doesn’t like too much. IF he admits that there is a rivalry it serves to only help his case as one of the greatest ever. Most fans want to hear their guy say they are the greatest or they are the best. Jordan was NOT humble by any means but did that ever stop anyone from glorifiying him? We as fans want Lebron to say hey there is a rivalry with the Pacer or whomever and we want to crush them. Instead he is like “they hate us so we don’t like them” all of that stuff is being said to diffuse situations. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  • ses

    Good Insight! The LeBron riders like to forget that he does not do well with pressure (remember Cleveland anyone?!) and just like you stated, he bolted as soon as he saw safe haven. Don’t get me wrong, he will still be considered one of the greatest but NEVER THE greatest. The greatest used the pressure as fuel to feed his fire, he never ran for cover.

  • Dfrance

    Agreed. The rules don’t allow for the chippiness that builds these rivalries. Growing up in NY and watching the Knicks/Heat or Knicks/Pacers and all the jawing that went back and forth, no one would make it past the 1st quarter nowadays.

    On top of that, LeBron doesn’t want to be anyones rival. He wants to be respectful and play nice. Like how Kobe said he doesn’t respond to trash talk and he says all the PC things in interviews when referencing the opponent. And thats totally ok if thats how he wants to be, just makes things a little boring.

  • Dfrance

    There’s more to a rivalry than just playing the same team over and over again. The Pelicans and Bobcats play 3-4 times a year, they’re not rivals. Its all the little things, the hard fouls, the trash talk, bashing the other team in the media, the individual matchups, that make a rivalry. ALL the extracurricular stuff comes from the Pacers side while the Heat want no part of that. They’ll never be rivals, no matter how many times they meet in the playoffs.

  • the rain

    There are some: NYK – Celtics. LAC – LAL

  • ObiWanJaynobi
  • Cortez Mack

    I do not care too much about how the Miami juggernaut was assembled but the lack of self awareness in this statement is pretty funny.

  • LLC#12

    It isn’t soft if you’re Bynum.

  • Busta213

    @PPose – joining Miami meant that the expectations increased. There were always excuses for losing in Cleveland. That isnt the case in MIA.
    As for the rivalry thing, the Heat arent really a great regular season team when it comes to playing against the teams that hate them – so why would he pretend to care more than he does? LeBron isnt usually fully engaged until around All Star as it is…they are an “all or nothing” team so its all about peaking at the right time.

  • Busta213

    @ses I think most Lebron fans will acknowledge that he hasnt always been comfortable in pressure situations. But the last 2 years the spot light has been as bright as ever, and the superstars who were supposed to take away all the pressure have been hurt during the post season, so the road has hardly been less-pressured. You only have to go as far back as game 7 vs. the Spurs to remember that

  • pposse

    “there were always excuses for losing in Clevland” – sorry bruh you have a case of amnesia. When the Cavs lost to the Magic Lebron got flamed. The year before when he lost to the Celtics he was accused of giving up, and the year after when they lost to the Celtics same stuff. The expectations increased but the pressure for just Lebron to perform the way it always was in Cleveland diffused (edit) (key word ‘just’). Guys like Wade, Bosh routinely came up HUGE in important games for the Heat throughout their run, no one did that in Cleveland and it was always Lebron’s fault.

    I would think he would pretend to care more than he does as a business move of sorts, you know keep your name in the headlines more, maybe make people buy your shoes etc. As fans and people we are all about controversey i dont know why but thats our makeup for the most part.

  • davidR
  • Busta213

    Well, thats true – but you know basketball debates, there will always be people who want to kill him for anything and everything.
    But in Cleveland the lack of quality teammates was a get out of jail free card because noone wins chips with Mo Will as their next best player.
    But I mean, as long as he cares about coming up big in the playoffs, his fans will be fine with him not stoking the flames of rivalry. We all know Pierce/KG, the Bulls and now the Pacers want rivalries with the Heat, but they have to take something away from the Heat first to make it matter (i.e. banner/rings).

    Lol, you know that the headlines about him are already constantly there and his shoes sell well if theyre not hideously ugly.

  • Saleem Rainman

    that sstill bothers me when i see it to this daylol, cost nash a ring with that.

  • pposse

    do you remember the arrogance David Stern came with on the Dan Patrick radio show in defending the supsension of Amare? It was unreal to this day i believe some oil tycoons out in San Antonio bought that ring for the Spurs.

  • Feez_22

    You may not know this but… when lebron left cleveland to play with d-wade/bosh in miami, he actually created MORE pressure for himself. In cleveland, he always had a cop out. If they lost to orlando, people could always bring up that he avg 38-8-8 on 50% shooting while his teammates stunk. If he lost to boston in 08, people can always bring up that lebron scored 45 in game 7 while the rest of the team scored 43 that same game on shitty efficiency. If he lost in 07 (which he did, swept), people could always bring up that his 2nd leading scorer in that series was a rookie daniel gibson and the spurs had multiple all stars. The only year he didn’t have a cop out in cleveland was 2010 when he “quit” in game 5. However, he came back in game 6 and had an ok game (trip double was good but he had 10 horrible turnovers) and they still got blown out so people could STILL put some semblance of blame on his teammates (which would be fair… of the top 5 players in that series, only 1 was a cav).

    When he went to miami, all of those potential “excuses” were thrown out of the window. all of them. Thus, when they lost to dallas, he was torched not only by biased talking heads but the entire basketball community at large. Wade and bosh pretty much avoided any type of critique. it was all on lebron to the point where people weren’t even putting him in their top 3 anymore.

    The only really well known talking head that consistently flamed lebron for his “shortcomings” in cleveland was good ole skip bayless aka the biggest troll in the history of sports tv. If you think getting flamed by skip bayless is even legitimate then you have another thing coming. This is the same skip bayless that thinks russell westbrook is better than kevin durant RIGHT NOW. this is the same skip bayless that has called your beloved derrick rose a “SECOND BANANA”. This is the same skip bayless that has continuously criticized the last 3 superbowl mvp’s. If you want to take what this good for nothing troll says and think it’s legitimate than you have another thing coming. If what skip said about lebron is legit than his criticism of durant and rose (which are also obsurd) have validity as well.

    BTW… i’m a little different when it comes to this “rivalry” stuff. See, i’m a football fan as well. I know that rivalries are born on the field of play. The heat aren’t combative when they face the pacers. There can’t be a rivalry without animosity on both sides. It’s not something that needs to be “said”. It is something that needs to be played into. Talking into a “rivalry” is nothing. That isn’t genuine at all. It is about seeing how teams react to each other on the court.

    In rivalries, there are no hand slapping during games. There isn’t any congratulations during games. There just isn’t any of that bs going on. Trash talking, combative play and hard nosed attitudes mixed with close series’ with the other team winning as much as theirs is a rivalry. Last playoffs, lebron slapped hands with paul george after his dunk on birdman. Lebron LIKES paul george. The only players that truly have hate for each other between the teams are mario chalmers and david west. Lance stephenson tried to sh#t talk lebron in the playoffs last yr to no avail. & no… granger’s fake toughness isn’t gonna do it. In order for there to be a rivalry, lebron & wade need to hate those other guys on the court. they could be friends off but they need to HATE them on it. They don’t so why fake it? I’m not about fake narratives. I’m not about talked up rivalries. I don’t recognize that. That is why in my original statement to you, i said that there are no rivalries in this league anymore. You can go ahead and blame good ole david stern for that since he took out the physicality in this game.

    BTW, lebron has never used that “they hate us so we don’t like them” line towards the pacers. He used that against the bulls. The bulls and heat actually have the mental ingredients to have a rivalry. Lebron and wade don’t like bulls players. Bulls players don’t like them. Lebron and rose have contrasting personalities. The bulls are hard nosed and will deck heat players. The only problem is (and you won’t like this) that the bulls don’t have the talent level consistently to be a threat to the heat. Injuries (which the bulls have plenty of) have robbed them from actually being the heat’s rivals. All fans have to go off of is regular season games which btw aren’t nearly as important as playoff games. What have these 2 teams done to each other in the playoffs? well… the heat beat them in 5 back when they first banded together & then beat them in 5 again due to INJURIES. Thus, bulls/heat can’t be a rivalry. it’s a hotly contested battle most of the times they play but can’t be a rivalry because the bulls are simply not on the heat’s level due to injuries and overall lack of talent. Now… i know you will battle this point but i wouldn’t expect you not to. I’m just speaking as a pistons fan who has been in the building for some highly contested rivalry games.

  • Saleem Rainman

    not really, i just remember it was a load of crap and a bad decision basketball wise to suspend anyone in such an important juncture of the series.

    is there a vid on youtube of the interview?

  • danpowers

    or soccer

  • TR

    You’re saying soccer is soft?

  • danpowers

    but who is his nemesis / rival? the pistons that gave him a whooping in 04 dont exist anymore, the nash suns dont exist anymore, neither do the celtic teams or that magic team he faced in the finals. he is extremely competitive on court but when is he facing a true rival?

  • danpowers

    yup, a crybaby sport. rugged fan culture doesnt change that the actual sport is quite phony. i wouldnt want to get into trouble with soccer hooligans tho lol

  • pposse

    You basically listed all the reasons that irk me about LBJ and more recently D Wade. He legit doesn’t hate anyone, it makes it hard for anyone to hate on him, not saying he should hate anyone but he does the complete opposite…work out with KD in the offseason so both can get better stuff like that. I’m a Jordan guy and MJ had statements back in the 80s up until this day from announcing himself as King of the Hill, going at Magic during Dream Team practice to being 42 and telliing OJ Mayo he is the best in the world. I think LBJ helps take away the fire from the other team by being so damn nice and it pisses me off. What else is PG supposed to do when Lebron the best player on the planet comes up to him and gives him a high five shoo him away try and fight him?? I’m not saying what LBJ does isn’t genuine just completely annoying and desensitising he’s like a condom lol.

    Honestly i stopped listening to Skip Bayless 4 yrs ago, couldn’t handle his critique on Lebron (those were the yrs i only praised his game). Him and Stephen A are stupid. And btw he did say that line i swear i heard it on espn or nba tv before the Pacers Heat game. It was the same line he used with the Bulls kind of like he is reading off a script.

    We are in agreement on the Bulls and Heat, if the Bulls were ever to be healthy and play the Heat in the playoffs win or lose all of the elements for a rivalry exist. It sucks cause again it won’t happen this year, but I think finally we would see Lebron and Wade show some non-friendly emotion.

  • allah
  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    Insults, false depictions wont take away from the Truth! The Uncreated Creator is the Greatest!

    THis is the same pagan god the gentiles worship Holy Qur’an 43:61

  • Feez_22

    Agreed. I also hate that lebron is all buddy buddy with his peers as well but we have to remember that even players back in the day were buddies off the court with others. Isaiah T (my fav player of all time) was actually really good friends with magic johnson but made a remark that split their friendship. However, everytime they played, he’d give magic a hug bc they were friends. During the game, he was ruthless but after it, he liked magic (until they stopped being friends).

    I think the prob ppl have with lebron is that he isn’t a “killer” on the court at all times (like mike was). He is at his best when he plays happy and will only retaliate when pushed. We remember guys that pushed others into retaliation (like gary payton, another one of my favs ever) but we also have to realize that guys like magic played with a big smile on their face as well. Magic was also diff bc he was one of those with a killer smile. dude was a killer too. I don’t think lebron is a killer on the court. He is happy like d12 and that’s what kinda irks people. i understand that as it irks me too but if pushed, he can become angry too (game 6 boston 2012 playoffs). Like, if kd or paul george declined workouts or acknowledgement, he would have pushed back. He pushes back when he senses that he isn’t liked. it’s just too bad that he doesn’t push automatically but hey… that’s what makes him the player he is now.

    In order for lebron to hate someone, he needs to be hated first. He won’t just start hating someone out of nowhere. He’s not that type of person. he needs to be hated or pushed before he can push back. That imo is why he is passive sometimes. it adds a facilitator and good teammate aspect to his game but also takes away from his greatness a lot of times so i agree… but at 28 yrs old, this is what he is. Killers are born, not made. lebron just isn’t a dude that will push people wrong mentally unless they push him.

    The bulls are a team that pushes lebron mentally. That is a team that would have had a good rivalry so i agree whole heartedly. I do think that the bulls need more talent (maybe a 2nd playmaker next to rose) but that’s the team and mentality that will create a true rivalry. Don’t get me wrong… the pacers are a terrific team. May be finals bound this yr. However, their 2 best players are really soft minded at heart. Roy was always known as sort of a softie out of georgetown and still is (when he plays dudes his height, he isn’t as dominant) and paul although good has shown moments of backing down and not trashtalking opponents. Rose isn’t a trash talker but has a strong personality and his team is hard nosed so i can see the bulls being the heat’s rival as long as rose gets healthy and they trade for another big time playmaker.

  • danpowers

    how i miss the 90s…

  • brothasdontsurf

    That magic team? lol
    I don’t care about rivals, just that Kobe believes 100000 percent that no one else can rival him. Thats why I think he still needs to play.

  • TR

    Haha, idk how much you watch man, but its a very physical game on the pro level. If you get a chance to watch the EPL this Saturday you should. The flopping is def strategy (i agree its annoying), but the game is incredibly physical at the highest level.

  • danpowers

    im from germany so im forced to watch way too much and even play myself every now and then. im used to get very physical as my main sports were always basketball (bush league) and boxing. none of my fam playing soccer on comparable level can keep up with me physically when we play their sport and i think its the other way round: the lower/bush leagues of soccer are quite rugged, but the pro level… idk man, doesnt look very physical to me – besides the premier league i dont see much tough play in soccer. just compare an average soccer players physique to an average basketball players physique. it gets pretty clear who would wipe the floor with who. true, soccer players get hurt quite often by contact, still, they cant keep up physically with athletes of most other contact sports when it comes to contact/strenght.