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LeBron James: Not Even Heat-Pacers Alters NBA's Rivalry-Free Status

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 3: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks to pass the ball against Paul George #24 of the Indiana Pacers in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs on June 3, 2013 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. 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. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright NBAE 2013 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2013

The NBA's premier matchup on Tuesday night pits the defending champion Miami Heat against the Indiana Pacers in a rematch of two fiery playoff series. 

And with the Eastern Conference largely devoid of championship-caliber squads, Pacers vs. Heat has naturally evolved into one of the game's biggest rivalries. 

Unless it hasn't. 

According to Heat forward LeBron James, meetings between the Heat and Pacers can't yet be classified as a rivalry. 

Why, you ask? 

Well, if you listen to James, it's because meeting in the playoffs two years in a row isn't a substantial sample size to properly evaluate a rivalry in the NBA. 

In addition, it appears that James was so fired up by the subject that his repetitive tone conjured up memories of a rant by another famous hoops star. 

Even more interesting is that LeBron proclaimed rivalries in today's NBA to be non-existent.

On that subject, he may have a point. 

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets had a chance to establish a true hatred of one another, but as we saw last week, the Battle of the Boroughs has a long way to go until it reaches rivalry status. The same goes for the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers, as those showdowns were squashed by another knee injury to Derrick Rose. Ditto for Heat vs. Bulls. 

 

Out West, there are some emerging battles of note, but the hatred simply doesn't appear to run deep enough for those matchups to be classified as rivalries just yet, although the Phoenix Suns tend to disagree.  

Historically, James noted that there are several big rivalries that jump to mind.

Apparently the self-proclaimed New York Yankees fan forgot about arguably the most historically significant rivalry in sports between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Oh well. 

For the fans' and the league's sake, let's just hope James changes his stance should the Pacers and Heat meet in the playoffs for a third year in a row. 

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