In New York City, the name Lance Stephenson is one that many would say will live forever. His success as a teenager at Lincoln High School put him in the limelight early. As his game progressed and he was drafted into the NBA in 2010, many thought the Indiana Pacers got a steal, despite character concerns that followed him into the league.
It took longer than expected but Stephenson is finally making an impact this year. He has been the starting shooting guard for the Pacers while Danny Granger has recovered from injury, and his solid play even netted him his own sneaker with AND1.
I got a chance to sit down with Stephenson during NBA All-Star Weekend to discuss his early fame, and his future in the league.
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Dime: You had a lot of early success and gained a lot of notoriety as a teenager growing up in New York before coming into the league. Tell me what that was like.
Lance Stephenson: It was great, especially in New York where basketball is real big. I think I deserved it, you know I worked hard and people noticed that at a young age. I’m just happy it translated to the NBA and I’m just working hard… trying to grind out.
Dime: Do you feel there was any added pressure being a New York product with New York being the Mecca of basketball?
LS: I wouldn’t really say pressure because I don’t think I had pressure. I just played ball. I didn’t really look at interviews, or magazines, or what people wrote about me. I just tried to stay focused and play ball and not worry about the fame. That’s how I take it.
Dime: What are some of your fondest memories growing playing ball before the NBA?
LS: Probably high school, winning four city championships. That’s tough, nobody ever really did that.
Dime: Who did you look up to both on and off the court and who were the people who helped to keep you in line?
LS: Well my family always kept me in a straight line. I looked up to a lot of players like T-Mac, Penny Hardaway and Magic Johnson. So I tried to take to what they did in the game and put it in my own way.
Dime: You know it’s funny a lot of people say T-Mac, who probably won’t ever make the Hall of Fame, and Penny, too, as guys who influenced their game. I spoke to your teammate Paul George over the weekend and he said the same.
LS: Yeah everybody liked those two. Especially because Penny is a big guard and I’m kind of like a big guard too. He could handle, and go to the hole, and see the floor well. I like his game and I just try to put some of that into my game.