Former Indiana Pacer Lance Stephenson took on a new level of NBA fame (and infamy) last season when he decided the best thing to do to help his team in the playoffs was to blow in LeBron James’ ear. Stephenson is a strong defensive player–one of the best–and he checked LeBron James as well as anybody can throughout the tough series. But his decision to add oddball mind games to his arsenal, to try to bother James any way possible even when play was halted (the ear blowing occurred while the clock was stopped), pissed some people off. Are you concerned–one reporter asked Larry Bird, hoops legend and Pacers president–about Lance Stephens’s odd behavior? “Yes,” replied Bird. “Yes I am.”
Stephenson is no longer a Pacer. This summer he moved to a rising Charlotte Hornets squad owned by a guy who knows a little about mind games, Michael Jordan. Jordan welcomes Stephenson’s lockdown defense and potent offensive production–Stephenson’s style reminds people of Jordan’s old running mate, Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen. Stephenson clearly understands it’ll be an important transition–that he’s in a career-making moment. On Instagram he posted an artist’s rendering of himself in flames, changing from a Pacers to a Hornets uniform. It’s superhero-esque. Two things come to mind looking at the pic. Lance Stephenson is ready to catch fire in Charlotte. And then there’s the immediate desire to blow on him. But if Stephenson is half as hot in the Hornet’s transition game as he is in the photo, the comparisons to Pippen will keep on coming. And Jordan will again have stolen one from Larry Bird.