Lebron James and Serge Ibaka may serve as forwards for the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder respectively, but the two seemed to be engaging in a verbal battle off of the basketball court before Game 4 of the NBA Finals took place Tuesday.
After 22-year-old Ibaka said James was "not a good defender" on Monday, the 27-year-old league MVP responded by calling the younger player "stupid."
"I don't really care what he says," James said in an ESPN report. "He's stupid."
The response came one day after the Thunder were recovering from a Game 3 loss to the Heat that caused them to fall behind Miami in the series 2-1. Ibaka refused to credit James with consistent defense, telling reporters that he only defended in spurts.
"He can play defense for two or three minutes but not 48 minutes," Ibaka told The Palm Beach Post. "LeBron can't play (Kevin Durant) one-on-one. They're playing good defense like a team."
After James engaged in a war of words with the Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, he acknowledged that the media and other players have attempted to pit him against other players in each postseason series.
"Everyone says something to me every series, then (the media) tries to get a quote," James said. "It's stupid."
The three-time MVP who is also in the NBA finals for the third time went on to defend his defensive skills while acknowledging the difficulty guarding the Thunder's leading scorer in the ESPN report.
"For me as a defender, I just try to make plays and try to keep my body in front of a great player. First of all, I'm not playing 48 minutes, and Kevin's not playing 48 minutes," James said. "I'm not guarding him for 48 minutes. When I'm on him, I'm just trying to make it tough for him to make shots, which he's going to make."
The two teams will face off once again for Game 4 of the NBA Finals Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET in Miami.