Indiana Pacers star Paul George took to Instagram on Tuesday to issue an apparent denial of widespread rumors that claim he caused Roy Hibbert’s playoff struggles by sleeping with the 7-foot-2 center’s fiancée.
George, 24, posted a photo of himself and Hibbert on a fishing trip, along with a caption that dispelled the notion that a rift existed between the two stars. “These rumors have got to stop! Its getting old now and all you that believe them are ignorant! #Brothers,” George wrote on Instagram.
After the 2013-14 NBA regular season, in which he earned a spot in the NBA All-Star Game, the 27-year-old Hibbert has struggled mightily in the playoffs. In the last eight games, he’s averaged just 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest, culminating in a zero-point, zero-rebound effort against the Washington Wizards on Monday. Hibbert’s performance has been so inexplicably subpar that many have suggested that an off-court issue may be affecting his play.
Enter gossip website Baller Alert, which claimed on Tuesday that it received an email from a “source” who said that Hibbert’s struggles stemmed from the fact that his fiancée, Valerie Cooke, was caught sleeping with George. The source allegedly told Baller Alert that George’s purported affair with Hibbert’s fiancée was directly responsible for a fistfight between Pacers teammates Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner, which supposedly occurred after Stephenson made a flippant comment about the illicit relationship.
Baller Alert’s story did not offer any proof of an alleged affair and was not validated in any way. However, the rumor quickly went viral on the Internet, drawing enough attention that George felt the need to issue a denial of any wrongdoing.
This isn’t the first time that an Internet rumor has blamed an NBA star’s on-court struggles on an off-court affair. In 2010, several websites, including Deadspin, received tips that LeBron James, then a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, had played poorly in the playoffs because he found out that teammate Delonte West had slept with his mother, Gloria James.
The rumor was never validated, and West himself denied that such an affair had ever occurred. “Number one, something like that never happened,” he told the Dallas Morning News in 2012. “I don’t know where they got that from.”
[h/t Complex Sports]