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LeBron Says Paul Pierce Tops Kobe Bryant as His Biggest NBA Rival

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 18:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat  defends against Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics on March 18, 2013 at theTD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Heat kept winning streak going to 24 games in a row, which is the second longest winning streak in NBA history.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2013

As much as we like to push a storyline for the sake of a great showdown, LeBron James is of the belief that Paul Pierce—not Kobe Bryant—has been the biggest rival of his career.

How is it possible that after years of hype, Nike puppet commercials and the constant preseason predictions of LeBron and Kobe somehow meeting in the NBA Finals that LeBron drops this bombshell on us?

LeBron, when asked by Ahmad Rashad if Kobe is his biggest rival: "I would say Boston and Paul Pierce if I had to name just one guy"

— Jay O. (@MrTrpleDouble10) June 4, 2013

Well, mostly because it's absolutely true.

In his 10 years in the NBA, LeBron has played 34 regular-season games against Pierce and the Boston Celtics, compared to just 20 against Kobe's Los Angeles Lakers.

On top of that, James and Pierce have met in the playoffs four times, playing a five- and a six-game series, and two seven-game series against each other.

That's 25 playoff games going head-to-head, all coming since 2008.

You can point to key moments in LeBron's career that came against the Celtics, while his games against Kobe's Lakers have been relatively exciting, just not nearly as important to his career as a whole.

In fact, very few games between the two stick out as actual "showdowns," unless you're counting the Christmas Day games that were only showdowns because of the unbridled hype involved.

When you tick down the list of important Celtics-Heat and Celtics-Cavs games over the last decade, they're in another league than any Lakers-LeBron matchup that may have come in that same time frame.

We had the double-overtime game way back in 2006 when the Cavs came out on top behind LeBron's 43, and despite Pierce's 50.

Or better yet, Pierce out-dueling LeBron in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals back in 2008, each player scoring over 40 points.

And of course, Game 6 from last year's Eastern Conference Finals when LeBron's 45 willed the Heat to a Game 7.

Kobe-LeBron was always a pipe dream, but Pierce-LeBron is something that's really happened. Plus, there might just be an additional showdown or two left between the two.

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