Lance Stephenson Stays “Born Ready” in Zionsville
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // JJ Kaplan and Courtesy of the Indiana Pacers
On the court, Lance Stephenson is a force of nature that brings passion and determination to the game of basketball that has brought him a lot of attention and publicity over the years. When he’s off the court and relaxing at his home in Zionsville, Stephenson finds peace and relaxation in his quasi-rural surroundings. Stephenson took time out of his practice session to sit down with us and share what he enjoys most about living in Zionsville and about playing as a Pacer.
A native of New York, Stephenson was raised in Brooklyn and first caught the attention of scouts when he was 12 years old. Stephenson’s high school career gained him local and national recognition. As a high school junior, he was named to the annual “USA Today” All-USA boys basketball team, the only non-senior to be given that honor. Stephenson graduated as the career leading scorer in New York State’s basketball history.
Stephenson attended the University of Cincinnati and joined the Bearcats for the 2009-10 season. He was named Big East Rookie of the Year. In 2010, he was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 40th pick of the 2010 NBA Draft and signed a multi-year contract.
Because of Stephenson’s early success as a shooting guard/small forward with the Pacers, opportunities as a free agent arose, and he became a free agent. The Pacers offered Stephenson a five-year contract valued at $44 million, but he opted out and signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets. However, Stephenson never found the same success outside of Indiana, and he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers where he played until traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. Stephenson’s tour of NBA teams led him to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2016 and the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2017 before he would find himself returning to the Hoosier state in 2017 where he has become a fan favorite.
At the time of this interview, the Pacers were just returning from a much-deserved All-Star break, and Stephenson had just returned from a visit to his hometown of Brooklyn where he visited with family and friends. “It was good to be back home with my family,” Stephenson said. “My high school team lost the semifinal, and I was kind of upset about that, but other than that, I spent time with my family and ate a lot of bad foods.”
Though he enjoyed his time visiting his former stomping grounds in New York, Stephenson shared that he is a big fan of living in Zionsville. “I actually love Zionsville,” Stephenson said. “Zionsville is nice and peaceful. The people and my neighbors are great. They come down sometimes. I just feel like I’m on vacation when I’m in Zionsville. I feel very comfortable and relaxed. I love the area. I have so much fun when I come back to Indy. I can relax and think about basketball and winning.”
Stephenson has a platinum, life-size replica of a horse in his house. When we asked about it, he explained that it was inspired by his environment and his need to connect with his current Hoosier home.
“I’ve got a lot of farms for neighbors who have cows and horses,” Stephenson said. “When my kids come, they’re like, ‘I want to ride the horses,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t think they’re [the neighbors] going to allow that.’ I actually do have a life-size horse in my house. I’m in Indiana, so I got a [replica] horse. I wanted to bring out the ‘Indiana’ in me. I’ve got so much land that I probably could have a farm back there, but I don’t think that I’d be good at taking care of it.”
Stephenson also has the phrase “Born Ready” spelled out with decorative letters on a wall in his house. Bobbito Garcia, a courtside announcer at Rucker Park located in Harlem, dubbed Stephenson with that nickname during a game in 2006. The nickname that he’s carried with him throughout his career has great sentimental meaning to Stephenson.
“What it means to me is about being ready at all times,” Stephenson explained. “It’s about being prepared for any type of war or anything. It’s also about playing hard. I feel that name has high expectations. I have to always be ready for anything at any moment. Even if it’s me just coming up off the bench, I’m always ready. I try to come in there [the game] and change the atmosphere. I think I really do live up to that name.”
As the Pacers strive to keep the pace towards the playoffs, Stephenson was cautious in speaking about that prospect, citing he didn’t want to “jinx” the opportunity, though he did offer his thoughts about playing against the iconic LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“We’ve got to get there [the playoffs] first,” Stephenson emphasized. “We’re only fifth place, and everybody’s close to each other, so I don’t want to talk about getting ready for playoffs and jinx it. I want to get there, so we’ve got to keep playing and stay hungry. We still have a lot of people underestimating us, so we’ve got a lot to prove. I don’t want to think about the playoffs right now, but it’s always good to play against LeBron. Everybody wants to see him [LeBron], and everybody knows that he’s one of the best players to have ever played the game, so all eyes are on us when we’re playing. Everybody’s playing their greatest, and there’s so much that we want to do against LeBron and that team [Cavaliers]. Everybody’s watching, so it’s always fun to play against LeBron and the Cavs.”
Many eyes are on Stephenson as well, and many depictions of his on-court antics have been immortalized on social media in the way of memes, the most famous one being of him blowing in LeBron’s ear. It is an image that Stephenson suspects will never cease to get old and die on social media.
“It makes me laugh,” he said. “I see myself doing things [in memes], and I’m like, ‘Man, I did that?’ It’s always fun to see stuff like that. That meme of my blowing [in LeBron’s ear] will never die. You can use that in anything. There are still memes of me blowing on all kinds of stuff and with different people. I don’t think it’s ever going to die out.”
When preparing for a game, Stephenson keeps to a similar routine before heading over to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “I wake up and get a good breakfast with a lot of fruits,” he said. “Sometimes, I go into my little gym at my house and go in the sauna and do a little lift before I come here; sometimes, not all the time. My mind is just on winning and trying to do the best I can. I think about defense first because our defensive coach is on us, and then I think about making my shots after that. I know that defense is way more important than scoring sometimes. We [as a team] have to keep playing hard and keep winning because we’ve still got more to show everyone.”
Like the old saying that rest sharpens a razor, Stephenson’s relaxed life in Zionsville seems to help keep him “Born Ready” to compete for the Pacers.