One of the many Wizards-related subplots of the NBA Finals was the one-time feud between DeShawn Stevenson and LeBron James. The beef became public nearly three years ago, when Stevenson told me after a Wizards victory over Cleveland in March 2008 that James was “overrated.”
James responded with a comment comparing himself to rapper Jay-Z and Stevenson to Soulja Boy, which played out in near comedic fashion when the Wizards and Cavaliers met in the first round a few weeks later. After the Wizards lost the first two games, Stevenson invited Soulja Boy to Game 3 at Verizon Center, James got Jay-Z to make a diss record that was a played at D.C. club Love a few nights later, and Stevenson was fined $25,000 for making a “menacing gesture” toward James in Game 4. James eventually led the Cavaliers to a six-game series win.
Since then, James has won two league’s most valuable player awards and both players have switched teams. With the players battling in the postseason at much higher stakes, Stevenson said that the beef is no more. “That was like four years ago,” Stevenson said this week. “It’s gone. That was a different team. They kept beating us in the first round. We were trying to do everything to get us past that first round. It’s a different team, different situation. I’m worried about the Mavericks and Dirk [Nowitzki] and this franchise and trying to win a championship.”
Stevenson started out guarding James in Game 1, with the Mavericks expecting him to bring up the ball and initiate the offense. He said James is vastly improved from the last time he had to guard him in the playoffs.
“I think he’s shooting the jumper pretty well, compared to back then,” Stevenson said. “Seeing the floor, he could always do that. But when he knocks down his shots, he’s pretty much unstoppable.”
When asked if it was tough for him to say that, Stevenson responded, “Yeah, but he is the truth.”
Shawn Marion has had the defensive responsibility against James for most of the series, and was able to help hold him to two points on 0-for-4 shooting in the fourth quarter of Game 2. Stevenson said the Mavericks are better equipped to deal with James than any of those Wizards teams. “We didn’t have nobody for him,” he said. “They beat us three times and we didn’t have nobody for him. This team, I think is more well-rounded. I think we’ve got a little bit more stoppers on this team.”
Stevenson said their past bad blood is no longer an issue. “It probably is with him,” he said. “I don’t know if he forgot about, but it’s nothing personal. At the end of the day, we’re in the Finals. That’s what we’re worried about: winning a championship.”