The Internet is having a ball with Lance Stephenson’s ear-blowing shenanigans. There’s a Vine of him blowing in LeBron James’ ear set to Ginuwine’s “Pony.” There are memes — like this one that adds bubbles, or this one that replaces Bron with a Nintendo cartridge. It’s all good for some chuckles and guffaws, but when you strip away all the knee-jerk silliness that rules our day, you’re left with a dude purposely blowing in another dude’s ear.
Ed Mallow should’ve called Lance for a flagrant foul. A flagrant 2, in fact.
I want you to watch this video below of Julius Erving hitting Larry Bird with a two-piece, while Moses Malone and Charles Barkley hold Bird in a dual headlock. And just for good measure, on the outskirts of the ensuing scrum, Malone catches M.L. Carr with a nice left jab. Check it:
Notice anything odd about the proceedings? Less than two minutes after the fight, Tommy Heinsohn casually announces “action has resumed” and you see Andrew Toney dumping an entry pass into Mo’ Malone. No one was ejected or suspended.
We all know that there’s nothing even close to street justice in the NBA, anymore. The penalties for fighting are too severe these days. Robert Parish was suspended all of one game for going Solange on Bill Laimbeer (although he wasn’t ejected) in the “there’s a steal by Bird” Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. If LeBron would’ve done the same to Stephenson, there's a likelihood he could have been suspended for the rest of this series.
The punitive nature of today’s game ends up accommodating a type of pathology for certain players. Dennis Rodman pinching cats on the butt, for instance; or The Worm turning a loose ball tangle into an actual tango, like he did with Antonio Davis.
Lance has shown a lot of individual heart and cocksure throughout these playoffs, but he spent Game 5 basically acting like Ezel from Friday: blowing in dudes’ ears, infiltrating huddles, writhing on the floor after collisions. I doubt that’s how he balled when he got his “Born Ready” nickname at the Rucker. You could argue that his shenanigans were a major part of the Pacers win to stave off elimination, but there has to be a level of shame when a cat is balling in a way that would get him an eye-jammy at the parks and playgrounds.
Lance’s teammates don’t seem to like him much (they rarely talk on the court, almost never dap him up, they speak about him in exasperated tones); but the dude is a sensation for all the Internet joke merchants. Social media digs him for his quirks (like this All-Star campaign video) and his huckster tactics on the court.
Laughs all around.
The problem is that it ain’t always sweet. Mike Tyson might lip-sync to Phil Collins in The Hangover, but Mike’s no clown. Ron Artest might go have some fun with ironic millennials and hipsters in a dodgeball tournament, but Ron-Ron still ain’t no joke. Lance Stephenson — regardless of his enabled, game-protected, clownish behavior — is not a clown. He’s got some skeletons to prove it, too.
Lance is a beast on the court when he wants to be, so why not fall back with all of the, as Ray Allen said, “buffoonery”? Hoops fans will continue to have a jolly time laughing at Lance if he wants to continue his unhinged jester routine. LeBron won't. And since LeBron can’t swing off, he might just drop 35 in a closeout game. The internet will get a kick out of that, too.