Culture of Hoops

Lance Stephenson: Superstar potential?

Image courtesy of Mulandar News/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Mulandar News/Flickr.

Some say that in order to make it to the top, in any sport, it takes much more than pure talent. We’ve seen this confirmed tons of times in the NBA but also in almost many aspects of the showbiz, because after all, the NBA is a part of the show business, in the sports subcategory. So, if a player needs to possess much more than the ability to put the ball in the basket, what can we really say about Lance Stephenson? Will he ever become a true superstar? In fact, is he a star at the moment?

The 23-year-old emerging guard will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Thanks to his incredible outputs throughout the 2013-14 campaign there will certainly be several suitors eager to add him in their arsenal. The Pacers do stand a good chance to re-sign him but there might some teams around the league ready to offer him a more lucrative contract.

Lance Stephenson will most likely sign a multimillion, star-caliber contract. Wherever he goes, he’ll be counted on as a leader. Does this make him a star?

Judging from his in-game performances and drastic improvement this year, Stephenson certainly has the potential to reach a star or even a superstar level. During the playoffs, the 6’5” guard has stepped up and he even took over as the leader of the Indiana Pacers in some games. We saw him reach the top of his potential in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, when he finished with 25 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists, shooting 58.8 percent from the field.

He is just 23. If he continues to improve his game he could be one of the most capable shooting guards in the NBA. Some even compare him to Dwyane Wade, noting he has the potential to overshadow Miami’s superstar in this series. Up to this point, it’s Wade who’s had the biggest impact. Although Stephenson has been playing well, and has been better than any other Pacer in this Conference Finals series, Wade has overshadowed him with his incredible outputs.

As he’s shown throughout his career, Stephenson has an explosive temperament. In a way, his aggressive manner of play accompanies him both on and off the court and in some cases it causes more problems than benefits to his team. Several times this postseason we have seen Stephenson pick up silly fouls, even receiving technical fouls that could have been avoided. In some cases, those mistakes have little impact in the outcome of the game. Nonetheless, some other times, the momentum of a close game can shift.

Apart from Stephenson’s in-game antics, when he addresses the media and when he makes public statements he tries to put pressure on his opponents. Through the entire Eastern Conference Finals, he has tried to get deep into the head of the Miami Heat. At first we saw him stating that he wanted to “flare up” Wade’s knees, then he made some controversial comments about LeBron James, and the story goes on. Up to now, it has been proven that Lance Stephenson has failed to achieve that much with his off-court behavior. In reality, it’s the Heat who responded the best way to his comments, by simply smashing him and the entire Pacers team with their game.

So what does this have to do with Stephenson’s potential to become a superstar? Do those comments affect his rise to the top?

Of course they do.

You see, if you look back at all the greatest players who have ever passed from the courts of the NBA, they firstly needed to work on themselves, they needed to learn how to control their mind and body before dominating against their opponents. The most recent example is LeBron James, who struggled badly to make it to the top and fulfill his ultimate target, to win a championship ring. King James failed multiple times, including one after he joined forces with Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami before he finally took his destiny into his own hands.

In order for Stephenson to reach a superstar level, he will have to grow up. He certainly has the potential, the body frame, the athleticism, and other skills required to become a dominant star in the NBA. What he seems to be lacking is the mental composure, the maturity and the poise a star needs, something that his teammate, Paul George, possesses.

So, at the moment, Lance Stephenson can be characterized as an emerging star, but he hasn’t yet reach a star level. If he continues to be a belligerent personality, he will face major issues making it to the top level. The Indiana Pacers should certainly try to re-sign him this summer, but if he becomes too expensive to maintain, they’re better off trying to find other solutions at shooting guard.

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