Hornets owner Michael Jordan sat down with ESPN’s Darren Rovell this week to talk about the challenges of being an NBA owner. In the discussion, which is worth taking a few minutes to watch, Jordan speaks extensively on how much winning a seventh NBA title would mean to him. When the question of what Charlotte needs to do to win a title comes up, Jordan says the road out of the Eastern Conference runs through LeBron – and that’s exactly why he signed Lance Stephenson.
"We need someone that can compete against LeBron, simple as that,” Jordan says, speaking of Stephenson. “I don't know if the antics were one of those things. But the thing was, I love the way you compete against LeBron. To me that's a plus, because if you want to get out of the East, if you want to get past Cleveland — at the time it was Miami — you've got to beat LeBron. So we were willing to take a gamble on you if you're willing to take a gamble on us. Next thing you know he's with us."
At the least, Stephenson gives Charlotte a player who isn’t intimidated by James. His aforementioned antics, like blowing in James’ ear and making the choke sign towards him, are evidence of that. At the most, Stephenson is a talented young player who could blossom into a superstar for Charlotte – all the while continuing to pester LeBron with his trash talk.
Stephenson, for one, thinks he’s already in LeBron’s head. He said last May that LeBron’s retaliatory trash talk is proof that he’s gotten inside James’ psyche.
''To me, I think it's a sign of weakness," Stephenson said. "He never used to say anything to me. I always used to be the one who said, 'I'm going to do something to get you mad.' Now he's trying to do it to me. So I feel like it's a weakness. I feel like I'm doing something right because I'm getting under his skin, but I've definitely got to keep stepping up to the plate and be more aggressive when he does that.''
Will the Hornets’ gamble on Stephenson pay off? We’ll see. Charlotte kicks off their season tomorrow against the Milwaukee Bucks. Their first game against LeBron and the Cavs doesn’t happen until December 15th. Here’s to hoping Stephenson finds a way to do something even more ridiculous than this: