The NBA is just better with Lance Stephenson.

He’s the man who infamously blew in LeBron James’ ear (?!?!). He’s also the man who produced this top-5 all-time Vine.

He is the one, the only, the incomparable, the incredible, the ingenious, the oftentimes infantile Lance Stephenson.

And his NBA return is already producing comedic dividends.

Now the questions is: Will this be just a brief-but-glorious glimmer of based behavior, or will be treated to weeks of Lance before the season is done?

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

He’s already pissing off opponents!

This much is already certain: Lance has wasted no time putting himself back in the basketball conversation, both on the court and on Instagram. That’s where we’ll begin Our Story.

On Tuesday night, in his first game since signing a three-year, $12 million deal with the Indiana Pacers, Stephenson started an almost-fight in most Stephensonian fashion.

In the final seconds of a home win over the Toronto Raptors — a win in which, we must add, he played well and scored 12 points off the bench — Stephenson lazily dribbled in for a open lay-up. This might seem normal enough to you, casual basketball fan — but in some circles it breaks a CARDINAL RULE having to do with respect and opponents and needlessly piling on extra points.

That’s why Raptors players were pissed, confronting Stephenson on the court in something of a chaotic scene. Stephenson would clap back on Instagram the following day — but his coy behavior during the whole fracas seemed to indicated to most observers he knew exactly what he’d done.

"We know who he is, we know what he stands for," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of Stephenson after the game.

And this was only his first game back!

But Lance couldn’t leave it alone. Oh, no. On Wednesday, he shared video of Toronto guard Norman Powell throwing down a big dunk at the end of a Raptors blowout win last year. In other words: He came with the receipts, baby!

"They got mad at me for what I did but look at this," Stephenson captioned the post, before going third-person (the italics are ours). "All I did was jelly. When Lance Stephenson do it’s a big deal."

Here are a few things to know about Lance Stephenson before we plunge on.

  • He was a blue-chip recruit out of Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School in 2009 before playing one year of college ball at Cincinnati.

  • He blew in LeBron James’ ear that one time.

  • His nickname is the decidedly excellent Born Ready.

  • He blew in LeBron James’ ear that one time.

  • He was the 40th overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, and has since averaged 8.7 points per game in his career while playing for six teams.

  • He blew in LeBron James’ ear that one time.

  • His dad is named Lance Stephenson Sr. and his younger brother is named Lantz Stephenson. (This is both amazing and true, by the way.)

  • He blew in LeBron James’ ear that one time.

Stephenson was waived earlier this season by the New Orleans Pelicans. He then had a couple 10-day contracts with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but his NBA career appeared very much on the ropes until Indiana signed him to that three-year deal last week.

Circa 2014 (when he blew in LeBron James’ ear, have we mentioned that moment yet?), Stephenson enjoyed the best stretch of his career with the Pacers. So when Indiana re-signed him last week, he said his return to the Pacers was “going to be like Michael Jordan coming back to play in the NBA."

I asked Lance what he thinks Tuesday will be like…. His answer might be the most Lanciest thing ever: pic.twitter.com/DplfhkdXgv

— Michael Grady (@Grady) April 1, 2017

Given that Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, and given that Stephenson has averaged less than nine points per game in his career, the internet collectively reacted along these lines:

😭 😭 😭

Speaking of Jordan, two months ago Stephenson used Instagram to post one of Michael Jordan’s most famous quotes — but appeared to attribute it to himself. Classic Lance!

Which of course called to mind this classic Michael Scott moment.

On second thought, though, Lance might not be so far off the mark about the reaction to his return. We’re delighted he’s back in the league and the NBA is better for it, even if he’s far from the second coming of Michael Jordan.

There’s just one problem: With only four games remaining the season, Indiana is locked in a tie for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

So it’s entirely possible we get only four more games of Lance this season. Or, if the Pacers make the playoffs, we could watch Lance and his teammates try to pull off an upset or two.

You know what we’re rooting for.

Lance Stephenson forever, baby.