By Mike Wise
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Ever since DeShawn Stevenson, a role-playing shooting guard for the Washington Wizards, deigned to call MVP candidate LeBron James "overrated" last month -- literally a peasant uprising in NBA circles -- the hyperbole between the players and teams has flowed, expanding to new venues and artists never before seen or heard in Zydrunas Ilgauskas's iPod.
Asked to respond to Stevenson, LeBron said that would be like rap icon Jay-Z responding to a one-hit wonder like Soulja Boy. Ouch.
That's like John Starks calling out Michael Jordan, who would say, "For me to respond to that would be Snoop Dogg responding to Vanilla Ice."
Anyhow, Stevenson soon called Soulja Boy to remind him that "Crank Dat" is a very good song and, well, LeBron disrespected you.
Stevenson of course needed help after he and the Wizards laid two eggs in Cleveland falling behind 2-0 in the series. But with his song blaring from the Verizon Center speakers in Game 3, Soulja Boy did his dance, DeShawn busted LeBron and the Cavs -- hitting five deep three-pointers -- and Washington, given a standing ovation by an elated mob clad in white T-shirts and waving white towels, made it a series with a 36-point blowout.
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.
Basically, LeBron's image is too Teflon to lend any credence to what he calls a non-feud. But like any good king whose throne was attacked by Soulja Boy, he brought in reinforcements -- a professional disser like Jay-Z.
Game 4, this afternoon at 1 p.m. in the District, is so on.
"It's Hova," Arenas said, referring to one of Jay-Z's nicknames. "It's the big dog. If I had three people to talk about me in a song it would be Jay-Z, Michael Jackson and Prince. And Tupac and Biggie, let's be for real. Jay-Z had the time. That means he sat down somewhere, three minutes out of his time he had to write something."
Stevenson said yesterday he was actually flattered to be disrespected by Jay-Z, because, like Gil said, it's Hova.
But Damon Jones? That's like Bono responding to John Mayer. "I heard he was saying foul stuff about me . . . they're taking it beyond basketball to me," Stevenson said.
Now that you have created a Tupac-Biggie war in the NBA playoffs, fusing pro basketball and the hip-hop entertainment world like only Bob Johnson wishes he could have done, do you regret what you said about LeBron?
"I still feel that way," Stevenson said. "I think he's a good player, but I just don't think he's Kobe Bryant, a guy who you try to get your sleep on, you worry about, you can't stop no matter what you do. [LeBron] is a good player. But compared to the people I think who are true MVP all-stars.
"The whole thing is a little overblown," he added. "I said he's overrated, I didn't say he sucks. 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."
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."
For his part, LeBron admits he's called Stevenson's game into question but said he's never gotten personal, adding, "I don't know DeShawn.
"Look, I didn't say what I said for fame," Stevenson said. "I've been in this league eight years. I said what I said because I have a sense of pride and I don't think anyone should be bashing me and my team like that."
"When I had Soulja Boy here, it was on the court. It was nothing disrespecting him or his family or even foul language. So I'm boycotting Love. Everybody on our team, we're boycotting Love and Park. We're not going no more. But I appreciate Jay-Z for giving me the shout out."
Player insults. Economic sanctions. More gum-flapping. And Soulja Boy, oh!
What plotlines. What a series.
It's not often you get to type the words "hip-hop impresario" and phone a hip place like Love, asking for the owner, pretending to be down with the fellas. It's enough to make someone completely unqualified want to bust a rhyme:
DeShawn's Got Soulja
LeBron's Got Hova
Game 4 is off da hook
Now this column is ova