Dillon Brooks enhanced his reputation as one of the NBA’s most notorious villains by verbally and physically challenging Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James during the playoffs last season, so much so that the aggressive defender is still talking about it leading into the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
“I feel like I always had him. I feel like that series was thrown upon me cause of the words that I say, but I’ve been saying things all year and we won 50 games.”
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 24, 2023
Brooks received some deserved backlash for his antics during the series, with some blaming him for the Memphis Grizzlies losing to the Lakers in six games. He called James “old” and bragged about his chance to “poke bears” in postgame comments following Game 2 and then was ejected from Game 3 for a flagrant foul after hitting James in the groin.
The 38-year-old superstar took to social media following the Lakers’ series-clinching win and relished their first-round victory. As for Brooks, his behavior reportedly convinced the Grizzlies it was time to move on from him, and he joined the Houston Rockets this offseason.
Brooks, who is playing for Canada in the World Cup, is correct in that he has always been a big talker and last month said he believes when opposing players have to face him that it’s in their minds before the game even starts.
The Lakers reportedly met with Brooks this offseason before he joined the Rockets. Los Angeles may have simply decided Brooks wasn’t worth any possible chemistry problems with James or instead was satisfied with an offseason that included adding Gabe Vincent, Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince and Jaxson Hayes while also re-signing Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura.
James and Brooks get their first chance to renew their burgeoning rivalry on Nov. 8 when the Lakers play at Houston. The teams then play again at Los Angeles on Nov. 19.
The Lakers reached the 2023 Western Conference Finals and are expected to be among the contenders for the 2024 NBA championship, while the Rockets have not made the playoffs since the 2019-20 campaign and are coming off a 22-win season.
That means James and Brooks are unlikely to meet on the big stage of the playoffs again this season, but whenever they do face each other, it will be something that’s definitely worth watching, especially with these latest comments setting the stage.