Lance Stephenson: The ‘Born Ready’ Firecracker, Egregious Flopper

All season long I’ve attempted to convince myself Lance Stephenson isn’t as entertaining as I think he is or want him to be. Yet here we are, nearly eight months into the season, and I cannot take my eyes off him nor his meteoric rise.

Stephenson is as close to the NBA equivalent of P.T. Barnum we have. He’s the maestro of the Indiana Pacers’ recent nosedive-turned-triumphant campaign in the 2014 NBA Playoffs; the showman at one of the sports world’s noisiest carnivals. Give Stephenson a candle; he’ll set it on fire. Give him another one; he’ll burn your house down.

The Indiana Pacers have let Stephenson loose in every living room in the country and, at the very least, it’s been fun.

Perhaps nobody outside of Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook has more dangerous lack of self-control issues than Stephenson. It would be far easier to write him off if he didn’t have the chops to back up his nonsensical persona. But he does. The guard etched five triple-doubles this season, the most of anyone. As far as Pacers are concerned, nobody until Stephenson generated more than three of them since Detlef Schrempf did it in 1992-93. He has improved each season since the Pacers drafted him in the second round in 2010. His 13.8 points per game in the playoffs are third on the team and his 49 percent field-goal percentage clip is the most efficient on the team. We’re talking about a team with Roy Hibbert, whose shots can easily be confused with bird droppings feet from the basket. Stephenson’s rollercoaster season has faced adversity, but he’s played like a true 6-foot-5 point guard with killer 3-point range when Indiana has needed him. His innate ability of willpower is almost comical: If Stephenson wants to score in a particular fashion, he’s going to do it.

You can only pour so much vinegar into Stephenson’s baking soda before science takes its course. It’s widely understood that Stephenson plays his unequivocal worst when the notion of control is introduced. How do you douse a burning river? What can you do when the retardant is also the accelerant? You clench your teeth and watch it unfold, and pay the subsequent damage later.

In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Stephenson engineered the most blatant flop of the playoffs. LeBron James sidled up to the top of the key as Stephenson approached him from behind. Feeling him in the general vicinity, LeBron stutter-stepped, and Lance reenacted the scene in The Departed where Leonardo DiCaprio is shot in the head. It was brilliant — magical, even. He was promptly fined $5,000 by the league. There’s no denying that Stephenson was the best player on the court for three quarters of the game, and it’s sad, in a way, that he’ll be remembered for this rather than his offensive buoyancy.

This marks the second consecutive year Stephenson has been fined by the league for exaggerating contact in playoff series’ against the Heat. It was yet another installment in Stephenson’s campaign for entertainer of the year, an award previously won by such stars as JR Smith and Russell Westbrook. This is the final year of his rookie contract, and the antics made to get a raise, or, at the very least, garner attention, haven’t disappointed.

It’s about damn time we breakdown — in no particular order — Stephenson’s crusade to win showman of the year.

Indecent Crossover Dance on Courtney Lee — 12.22.13

This was the same game he danced, messed around, and had a triple-double. After planting Courtney Lee of the Boston Celtics on the floor, Stephenson buried the jumper and shimmied his way into the YouTube Hall of Fame.

Taunting Tony Allen: A Lance Stephenson Memoir — 11.11.13

Stephenson has significant distaste for Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies. Out of nowhere, Stephenson takes a handoff pass from teammate George Hill, and proceeds to shake it in front of Allen’s face. It didn’t go unnoticed.

Dunking on Refs — 2.1.14

A sizeable chunk of time had passed in the aftermath of an offensive foul going against Roy Hibbert before Stephenson decided to elevate and dunk on the referee.

COMBOOOOOOOO!!! — 12.20.13

As mentioned earlier, Stephenson has the moves to validate his persona. In December, he dropped a variety of moves on the Houston Rockets that would’ve generated a 76,000-point combo on NBA Street Vol. 2.

Screaming in D-Wade’s Face will get you Ejected — 3.26.14

There’s probably no one in the league that Stephenson dislikes more than Dwayne Wade. Prior to this year’s Eastern Conference Finals matchup with Miami, Stephenson vowed to “make his knee flare-up.” Screaming in Wade’s face earlier this season got him ejected, and added more fuel to the flame.

The Flop of all Flops — 5.20.14

Here’s the clip from Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. As you can tell, Stephenson isn’t done building his resume just yet.

Regardless of how this series turns out, Lance Stephenson has helped me reaffirm my passion for a sport that can, at times, appear placid. His lack of care for societal norms and vigor that rivals the Energizer Bunny are duly appreciated. Thanks for entertaining me, Lance. You’ve got my vote.

 

Josh Planos

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Josh Planos hopes to one day write about sports like the millennial version of Cormac McCarthy; he's working on it. His work has been featured at Washington Post, Denver Post, ESPN TrueHoop Network, SB Nation, Bleacher Report, Buckets Magazine, and Rivals. Currently, he writes for Washington Post Sports, BallerBall of the ESPN TrueHoop Network, FanSided, and The Pick and Roll. He loves interacting with readers via Twitter. Leads can be sent to jplanos1@gmail.com | Portfolio: josh-planos.squarespace.com | Tweets by @JPlanos

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