It might surprise you what the closest thing to a rivalry is for Miami Heat superstar LeBron James. It's not Kobe Bryant, it's not Kevin Durant and it isn't Derrick Rose. Of all people, it's our very own Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics, who James will meet in the East Finals.
Of course, this makes a lot of sense. Prior to last season, the demon that James was unable to overcome in the playoffs had been Pierce and his Celtics. Their rivalry really took form back in the 2004 preseason, but it has since grown to become a sort of mutual respect. Brian Windhorst of ESPN wrote a great piece about the Pierce-LeBron rivalry.
When asked about the rivalry, Pierce had the following to say about his battle with James.
"I don't think it is like or dislike, it is what it is," Pierce said. "He's been on some great teams, I've been on some great teams and we've had to face one another. After awhile it became a mutual respect for the things he's done in this league and the things I've done in this league."
"He's one of the best at his position and I've been considered one of the best at my position," Pierce said. "It's been a very competitive battle."
James returned the favor, talking up his storied history with the Celtics captain.
"Oh, we know each other," James said. "More than any other matchup in the league. We know each other's likes and dislikes."
"We understand how competitive each other are," James said. "It's always fun to go up against the best, and he's one of them."
Excerpts don't tell the full story. If you can, check out Windhorst's piece. It's worth it.