Lance Stephenson of the Indiana Pacers recently became a meme character, owing to his antics in Game 5 of his team's semifinal series against the Miami Heat. The Pacers shooting guard came up with a very creative (and creepy) way of trying to get into LeBron James's head. And while what Stephenson did has attracted a lot of attention, truth is, there is nothing new about the use of distraction in the NBA as a means of trying to sway the game in one's favor. In fact, both players and non-players have employed distraction to get opposing players to miss shots or get them off of their games. But we're not talking about simple trash-talking from players or balloon-clapping from fans here. Yes, they're attempts to distract, but they're child's play compared to what more creative players and fans have come up with.
How would Stephenson's distraction tactic stack up against those that others before him have employed? Read on to find out!
10 Flab-bergast the Opponent / Unnamed Philadelphia 76ers Fan
It's not nice to make fun of people's weight, but a diehard fan of the Philadelphia 76ers seems to be okay with being ridiculed since he routinely puts his stomach flab on full display to distract 76ers opponents. The video above shows him in action in 2012 as his team faced the Boston Celtics. In the third quarter, as Kevin Garnett was taking his free throws, the ample fan attempted to ruin the veteran's concentration with a flab-shaking dance that fully exposed his hefty stomach. On this particular occasion, however, KG shrugged off the distraction and calmly sank his free throws.
The fan is a member of a group of diehard 76ers supporters who come together with the purpose of annoying their team's opponents.
9 Optical Illusion / Memphis Grizzlies Fans
You've probably gotten them in your email or seen them on Facebook -- those "stare at these dots for thirty seconds" optical illusions. They're the ones where an image or color appears some time after you've been staring at the dots. Well, fans of the Memphis Grizzlies took the eye-trickery concept and attempted to employ it against their team's opponents. More specifically, in an attempt to confuse free-throw shooters, several Grizzlies fans seated behind the opponent's basket held up white pieces of cardboard with five dots arranged like those of a die.
Whether or not the tactic is effective as a distractor is unknown.
8 Shouting Into the Shooter's Ear / Various Benches
It's normal for fans to try and distract players from the opponent's team by shouting at them, but truth is, fans are usually too far from the shooter to bother him significantly. However, that's not always the case for the members of a team's bench who are often less than an arm's length away from opposing players attempting to make a three-point shot. Of course it's against the rules for anyone on the bench to physically affect the play, but there's nothing in the rule book that says they can't scream into the shooter's ear.
In the clip above, Miami Heat forward Juwan Howard and assistant coach David Fizdale attempt to bother San Antonio Spurs sharpshooter Danny Green as he attempts a three-pointer right in front of the Heat bench. Well, their screams didn't seem to affect Green as his shot swished into the net.
Same result though -- all net.
7 Making Fun of the Player's Appearance / Pau Gasol Haters
Several NBA fans are of the opinion that LA Lakers power forward/center Pau Gasol looks like a llama. In fact, several memes pointing out the resemblance have made their rounds on social media. Well, some Pau Gasol haters decided that they ought to use the concept to try and distract the Spaniard during games.
The picture above shows someone in the crowd holding up a poster featuring side-by-side photos of Pau Gasol and a llama, and above them, the question "Separated at birth?" Not really surprising that it's a fan of the Boston Celtics, the Lakers' fierce rivals, that came up with such a sign.
6 Blowing Into the Opponent's Ear / Lance Stephenson
They're calling this one "blowgate". During the fifth game of the 2014 Easter Conference Finals between defending champs the Miami Heat and the challenging Indiana Pacers, Lance Stephenson attempted to distract LeBron James by blowing into his ear in between plays. James undeniably noticed Stephenson's antics as he rolled his eyes and gently shook his head. But did the tactic work? Hard to say for sure, but the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player uncharacteristically racked up five fouls by the third quarter, played only 24 minutes, and scored just seven points -- a playoff low for James.
Asked about the incident during the post-game news conference, James shrugged off Stephenson's antics by saying, "I'm just here to play basketball, man. All the extracurricular activities, I don't really get into. I mean, I'm just trying to win." Furthermore, when asked if he had ever blown into someone's ear as a defensive technique, James jokingly answered, "I blew in my wife's ear before. That was definitely a defensive tactic."
Netizens also had their share of laughs as they turned Stephenson into a meme character:
5 Face-tapping / LeBron James and Lance Stephenson
Pacers president Larry Bird made it publicly known that he was not amused with Stephenson's blowing into LeBron's ear during their Game 5 encounter, and Stephenson seemed to heed the legend's order not to do it again as Lance explained, "He's kept me on the right path my whole career, and if he says something to me, I take it to heart."
Well, come Game 6, Stephenson was unable to control himself when James tapped Lance's face right after he had defended against Stephenson's three-point shot. Stephenson then returned the favor by tapping on LeBron's face in between plays, and the two had to be separated to prevent a fight. In the end, however, it was James and the Miami Heat that got the last laugh as they dismissed Indiana's challenge by taking the Eastern Conference Championship in six.
4 Nut-tapping / Kevin Garnett
If face-tapping is distracting, imagine how unsettling a nut tap could be. That's what 2004 NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Garnett probably had in mind when he tried to perform the move on Channing Frye as the Phoenix Suns power forward/center was in the act of taking a three-point shot. Unfortunately for KG, the ref called a foul against him, and Frye was so incensed by what Garnett had attempted that the two almost got into a fight involving other players from both teams.
Strangely, Kevin was neither fined nor suspended for the stunt.
3 Alluding to Past Rape Charges / Kobe Bryant Haters
In the summer of 2003, LA Laker Kobe Bryant was arrested in connection with a sexual assault complaint filed against him by a 19-year-old employee of "The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera" in Eagle County. The complaint stated that Bryant had raped the employee in his hotel room the night before Bryant was to undergo knee surgery. Kobe, meanwhile, admitted to having adulterous sex with the woman but denied raping her. Eventually, the charges were dropped, but Bryant publicly apologized for what had transpired and conceded that the woman had not consented to their sexual encounter.
Shortly after the incident and even years after it, Kobe Bryant haters have occasionally reminded him of the rape charges during games. In a championship series against Boston, for example, some Celtics fans repeatedly chanted, "No means no!" whenever Kobe was taking free throws. Also, in a Western Conference semifinal series with Utah, a Jazz fan held up an inflatable doll with the sign "Kobe Not Room Service Again!" hung around its neck.
2 Ex-wife Cutouts / Tony Parker Haters
In 2010, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs and famous actress Eva Longoria were divorced after allegations from Longoria that Parker had been cheating on her with Erin Barry, the wife of his former teammate, Brent Barry. After the incident, several fans of other teams that Tony went up against occasionally brought up the divorce through nasty cutouts they displayed during games against the Spurs.
During a Western Conference finals game against Memphis, for example, Grizzlies fans used cutouts of Longoria to distract Parker.
1 Alluding to Lost Property / Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Haters
Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker might have themselves to blame for the insulting distractions that their haters have tried using against them. After all, they committed adultery. But can the same be said of a player who lost almost all of his belongings in a fire? That question is relevant to NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar whose house burned down in 1983. In Jabbar's home was his beloved jazz LP collection, which had been described to be priceless. And yet, disregarding how painful the tragic incident was to Kareem, some Spurs supporters alluded to it in an attempt to distract the Lakers standout. More specifically, a few San Antonio fans raised burnt records and posters during one of the Spurs' home games against the Lakers. Understandably, Kareem was said to be deeply hurt by the gestures.