As many of you who have followed this blog for awhile know, I have always defended DeShawn Stevenson during his feud with LeBron James. I was very curious when the feud first became known back in 2008. During a game with Cleveland back on March 13 of that year, it was clear watching the game that DeShawn was talking a lot of smack with the so-called "King". My first thought was, "what is DeShawn thinking? Does he really want to poke at sleeping giants? After all, he might have to face him again in the playoffs!" I think most fans thought the same thing at the time.
But then I started reading more about the subject. Kyle Weidie over at TruthAboutIt.net got me going with some excellent research. Basically, he alerted my attention to the fact that LeBron and DeShawn both dated members of the R&B group Destiny's Child, and that Deshawn's close friend and LeBron's former teammate Drew Gooden might have relayed some sort of message from LeBron to DeShawn before the game. Gooden didn't want to talk about it, but I found out later that he did indeed let DeShawn know something that LeBron said. Mike Wise reported this on April 26:
The genesis of this beef, according to DeShawn, is all on LeBron. He's the one, DeShawn said, who trashed Stevenson and the Wizards within earshot of Drew Gooden, a former Cavaliers player who happens to Stevenson's best friend in the league from their days together in Orlando.
"He thought it wasn't going to get back to me," Stevenson said. "He said something about my game. He said I'm getting a lot of hype this year, that he doesn't think I'm the good player I am and basically that I suck, our team sucks and we're not going anywhere. I took offense to that. If LeBron James never said that comment, we wouldn't have the rivalry we have right now.
And then later, Ivan Carter filled in some more details:
Burke, Va.: Hey Ivan,
In your Wiz Insider column, you said that you thought DeShawn was going to say more trash after the Indiana game. Did you ever find out what he was planning on saying? Also, do you know, what did LeBron say about DeShawn to Drew Gooden?
Ivan Carter: DeShawn was gone after the game so we didn't get a chance to talk to him. Not sure what he had in mind but he told us to be ready for something "good" before the game. I hear that was said by LeBron involved a female. That's all I know. Whatever it was, it ticked DeShawn off big time. He wants some LeBron.
I also seem to remember DeShawn telling a reporter that LeBron had insulted his manhood (can't find the link, sorry), which would seem to be related to the female influence mentioned by Ivan above. My best guess is that LeBron had also dated a certain member of Destiny's Child (LeToya Luckett?), and decided to brag about how much more of a man he was than DeShawn, both on the court and off.
That's speculation on my part, of course, but what needs to be remembered is that LeBron started the whole thing. Most people think that everything started when DeShawn just randomly decided to call LeBron overrated, but that just wasn't the case. LeBron decided to act like a bully, and DeShawn decided to stand up to the bully, plain and simple. Why should it matter that LeBron is a better basketball player? Was that fact supposed to make DeShawn say, "OK, you can go ahead and bully me, go ahead and humiliate me to my friend Doc Gooden, because I'm not as good a basketball player as you are." A lot of people at the time seemed to think so, including a lot of Wizards fans. I was never one of them. Once I found out the back-story, I began sympathize and root for DeShawn Stevenson, and truly despise LeBron James.
Of course, LeBron James won all of the early battles. He bested DeShawn in the playoffs later that year. He and his lackey Damon Jones mocked and insulted DeShawn throughout the series, including their mocking of his "I can't feel my face" gesture, despite the fact that LeBron kept saying that there was no rivalry between him and DeShawn. The lowest, most humiliating point for DeShawn came before the start of Game 4:
Afterward, LeBron twice said, "There is no LeBron-DeShawn rivalry." But he had reinforcements behind the scenes, big guns that came out Friday night at a club called Love.
That's right, in the wee hours of Friday night at Love, the Northeast club which hosted Gilbert Arenas' million-dollar 25th birthday party last year, the deejay played a new cut by Jay-Z. The hip-hop icon actually cut it Friday and had it downloaded for a party hosted by LeBron James at the club that night. Stevenson was told that the lyrics just eviscerated him -- in his own town.
Then teammate Damon Jones, who last did something to collect an NBA paycheck two years ago, took the microphone and talked junk about Stevenson.
Caron Butler, the only Wizard present, left because "he felt I was being disrespected," Stevenson said.
Bob Ley Reciting Jay-Z's "Blow The Whistle" On Outside The Lines 6-9-11 (via AwfulannouncinBGreen)
Reading about that whole event made me sick to my stomach. The fact that LeBron had planned an elaborate event to punk DeShawn Stevenson was bad enough, the fact that he had enlisted a respected rap mogul to contribute was worse, and the fact that one of our own hometown nightclubs let it all happen was the brown-colored icing on the shit cake. LeBron and Damon Jones would later go on to dispose of DeShawn and the Wizards, but I secretly hoped that someday DeShawn would somehow get even.
For a long time after that, I never thought it would happen. DeShawn's back problems caused him to vastly deteriorate the next season, to the point where he voluntarily gave up his starting job. Even in his role off the bench, he struggled mightily. Eventually, he was traded in the fire sale last year, along with Caron and Brendan, to Dallas. No one here believed he would even play in the league much longer, much less start again for any team.
But then a funny thing happened. DeShawn Stevenson became good again. Somehow this season, DeShawn rediscovered his three-point stroke and his defense, so much so that he quickly became the starter for Dallas at shooting guard. We used to talk here about how DeShawn was the worst starter in the league, and that he could never start anywhere else, especially on a championship contender. We were all wrong.
While LeBron was over in Miami this season bragging about how many championships he was going to win and plowing through most of the competition, DeShawn quietly managed to post the highest true shooting percentage of his career, while increasing his usage rate to the highest in his career since that fateful season in 2007-08. He played in 72 games for the Mavericks, starting 54. Yet when the playoffs began, DeShawn's play eroded, while LeBron maintained his high level of play. So when their two teams both made it to the NBA Finals, it looked like LeBron would once again get the best of DeShawn.
But in the biggest series of both of their respective careers, LeBron James shrank from the moment while DeShawn rose to it. They both averaged 14.68 points per 36 minutes in the series (do the math, it's true!), but DeShawn did it with a .815 true shooting percentage compared to LeBron's .541. Of course, LeBron got the bigger numbers in other categories, but averaged out per minute, DeShawn was a much more efficient shooter in the series. In the end, one player got to hold the trophy, while the other was left empty-handed, once again.
DeShawn Stevenson|Steal and Score[13-06-2011] (via MrEprex123)
DeShawn Stevenson Vs Mario Chalmers. GAME 6 FIGHT, NBA FINALS 2011 (via TheDCudi)
Jay-Z rapped in his DeShawn diss song that "This is chess - know the difference 'tween the king and the pawn". Jay-Z should familiarize himself with two things. One, in chess, even a lowly pawn can put a king in checkmate. Two, isn't the king the one who is supposed to wear the ring? DeShawn can think about this and smile now. He helped vanquish the bully. He gets the last laugh.