The Memphis Grizzlies spent a good chunk of the season leading up to the 2023 NBA Playoffs cementing themselves as the villains they seemed to relish stepping into the role of over the course of the campaign.
Ja Morant (and his dad Tee) were instrumental in attracting plenty of negative attention to the team, but it’s impossible to overlook the supporting role Dillon Brooks played during a season where he fought Donovan Mitchell, found himself embroiled in a bitter feud with Draymond Green, and made another enemy on the Warriors in the form of Klay Thompson.
When everything was said and done, the Grizzlies earned the right to face off against the Lakers in the first round of the postseason, and Brooks was more than willing to continue to paint himself as a hateable heel thanks to what transpired toward the start of the series.
Brooks and LeBron James traded more than a few words during Game 2, and the former was very happy to keep the trash talk flowing after the contest when he said the legendary opponent he described as “old” hadn’t earned his respect on the hardwood.
Classic Dillon Brooks on his confrontation with LeBron James: “I don’t care. He’s old. … I poke bears. I don’t respect someone until he gives me 40.”
And Brooks had plenty more to say. pic.twitter.com/uWLONrubPZ
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 20, 2023
Plenty of people predicted those comments could come back to haunt Brooks when everything was said and done—and history shows there are plenty of other players who fell victim to their own hubris after making the retroactively regrettable decision to try to psych out one of the best basketball players of all time.
The NBA players who saw things backfire after talking trash to LeBron James
When the Heat and the Pacers met in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014, LeBron found himself facing off against longtime foe Lance Stephenson yet again.
The two men had a history stretching back to 2012, and the beef was quickly reignited thanks in no small part to Stephenson’s endless stream of smack talk.
Miami was up 2-1 in the series when Stephenson decided to let reporters know he felt he’d managed to get under LeBron’s skin after James started to trade words instead of ignoring him, which he asserted was a side of weakness.
LeBron responded without saying a word by dropping 32 points in Game 4, and while the Pacers were able to extend the series in a game best remembered for the moment where Stephenson bizarrely blew into James’ ear, the Heat ultimately advanced to the NBA Finals in six games (and the Indiana guard admitted he’d probably made a mistake).
Draymond Green and Klay Thompson
It seemed like Golden State was well on its way to securing its second consecutive championship after it the team pulled out to a 3-1 lead over a Cavaliers squad led by LeBron in the NBA Finals in 2016.
The fourth game of that series was a very heated affair. James took issue with an expletive Draymond Green threw his way during the contest (the latter missed Game 5 after being suspended over a scuffle that ensued when tempers flared), and Klay Thompson came to his teammate’s defense by asserting Cleveland’s star player “got his feelings hurt.
You can almost see the flip that switched in LeBron’s mind when he was made aware of Thompson’s comment, which was arguably the most pivotal moment of the series when you consider what transpired afterward.
LeBron put up 41 points in each of the next to games as Cleveland tied things up, and the Cavs capped off the comeback in Game 7 on the back of the triple-double James put up en route to being named Finals MVP.
P.J. Tucker and the Suns
It sure seems like LeBron thrives on this particular form of motivation in the playoffs, but he’s also able to metabolize disrespect into determination during the regular season.
Channing Frye once recalled what went down when his Suns were facing off against LeBron and the Heat at some point in the 2010s. James was apparently having a fairly quiet game by his personal standards, which led to an unnamed Phoenix player deciding to taunt him over his underwhelming performance.
Per Channing’s account, LeBron acknowledge the comment and then “turned the burners on and was barbecuing P.J. Tucker.”
Chris Bosh’s girlfriend
I know this isn’t technically a player, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the pretty legendary moment that unfolded when the Cavaliers faced off against the Raptors in 2008.
LeBron had struggled for the bulk of a game where he’d gone 6-19 from the field by the start of the fourth quarter. Toronto had also pulled out to a sizeable lead, and a woman who was dating Chris Bosh at the time decided it would be a good idea to heckle the visiting player (with some help from a friend) with around 11 minutes remaining in the contest.
How did that end up working out for them? Well, James scored 24 points in a final frame where the Cavaliers outscored the Raptors 36-20 to secure a 93-90 victory—and with ten seconds remaining in the contest, LeBron went into Full Troll Mode by walking up to the duo and telling them it was their fault he went on such a massive tear.
“IT’S YOUR FAULT!”
The time Chris Bosh’s girlfriend talked trash to LeBron and made him GO OFF (2008) pic.twitter.com/R7SDfldOdt
— LeBron History 🏀 (@bronhistory) July 30, 2021
So, yeah, I guess you could say this is a bear you probably want to avoid poking when possible.