Social media users may have had a good laugh when Lance Stephenson blew air into LeBron James’ ear, but Indiana Pacers executive Larry Bird was not amused by his player’s antics.
On Friday, Stephenson, 23, told reporters that Bird had delivered a stern warning ahead of the sixth game of the Pacers’ Eastern Conference Finals series against the Miami Heat. Bird, the Pacers’ president of Basketball Operations, told Stephenson not to blow into James’ ear again, the Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds reported.
Additionally, a reporter asked Stephenson how his ear-blowing tactic would have helped the Pacers to defeat the Heat. Before he could answer, a Pacers PR representative reportedly said, “Lance, go shoot.”
Bird admitted on Thursday that he was displeased with Stephenson’s on-court antics. When asked by USA Today if he was annoyed with the ear-blowing incident, he replied, “Yes I am.”
Like Bird, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel wasn’t impressed by Stephenson’s behavior. “Blowing in his face probably crosses the line,” he said, via USA Today. “That’s not really who we are. We want to be a competitive team, but we don’t want to cross the line.”
Stephenson has attempted a variety of unorthodox tactics against the Heat, each of which was designed to irritate his opponent into making costly mistakes. Besides blowing into James’ ear, Stephenson also walked into a Heat huddle to spy on opposing head coach Erik Spoelstra.
“My plan was to get into their head, get under their skin and play physical basketball, and help my teammates win the game,” Stephenson said, via Bleacher Report. “Just playing physical basketball and do whatever it takes to get the W. My teammates had my back.”
Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals will air on Friday night a 8:30 p.m. ET. The Heat currently leads the series, 3-2.