Full admission, that headline was close to the equivalent of Rick-Rolling. If you were expecting some footage of the former Indiana Pacer torching his old jersey like a 2010 Cleveland fan, sorry if you’re disappointed.
Former Pacers and current Hornets guard Lance Stephenson took to his Instagram account to post one of his first basketball-specific posts since signing his free agent deal with Charlotte, leaving the Hoosier state behind. Pro athletes are more and more frequently using social media to pump up fans or make personal and professional announcements, but they rarely include take little shots at their former team. But the fact that Stephenson – and the graphic artist that was utilized – went to the trouble to include his old blue and gold jersey being burned away into the teal and white, to me, says something.
When word first broke that Stephenson rejected Indiana’s initial contract offer of five years and $44 million, and then there were conflicting reports about how much negotiation there was beyond that point, the term “bad blood” came to mind.
Stephenson, one of last season’s bigger personalities, turned heads in good ways (such as his league-leading five triple-doubles) and bad ways (YouTube ‘Lance Stephenson LeBron James’ for a refresher course if you need it) and was rumored to be one of the “selfish dudes” mentioned in a heat-of-frustration post-game interview following a loss in March.
Did there end up being some bad blood there? To the point where Stephenson took less guaranteed years and less guaranteed money, all to change cities to a team that is still arguably likely to be looking up at the Pacers in the standings? (The fact that his contract can expire in March when a new TV deal is projected to spike the salary cap also might have something to do with it.) Only he and a handful of people know. Either way, Stephenson used social media to make a statement not only about his new team, but also may have been willing to potentially burn a bridge (pun intended) with his old one, the team that catapulted him into the $9 million a year player he now is.
One thing Stephenson has possibly done is add fuel to the fire (pun intended there, too) to set up a mini-rivalry between the Pacers and Hornets, to the point where ESPN or TNT may have interest in a nationally televised game, a notion that seemed ludicrous 12 months ago. The showdown between Lance and former teammate Paul George could be a blast to see, as well.
Either way, kudos on the Photoshop.
Personally, I’m not a fan of players taking pot shots at former teams, especially when, in this case, the team, coaches, and players, put up with their fair share of shenanigans from Stephenson. All that being said, this is pretty mild. Thoughts? Comment below.