Sports Media Today and Their Shame

“It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.”—Kobe Bryant on whether the 2012 Men’s team could beat the 1992 Dream Team

“They have (Patrick) Ewing and (David) Robinson and those big guys. It’s tough. If you’re asking me, ‘Can you beat them one game?’ Hell yeah, we can beat them one game.”—Kobe when asked if he stood by his first comments.

“If we got the opportunity to play them [the Dream Team] in a game we feel like we would win too.”—LeBron James commenting on Kobe’s comments.

“I absolutely laughed.”—Michael Jordan on everything.

Two weeks ago, I laid out the facts, the matchups, and the strategies behind a hypothetical Dream Team vs. 2012 Team game. In my arena, the Dream Team would whoop the 2012 Team. For any basketball observer, it’s a given: Not only is the Dream Team better than the 2012 Team, but the 2012 Team isn’t even as good as the 2008 team, which narrowly beat Spain in the Gold Medal game. Nobody was talking Dream Team vs. Redeem Team back then.

Kobe’s first quote about beating the Dream Team is over two weeks old. LeBron’s newest quote, reaffirming his belief that his squad would win, is from today. The entire Dream Team vs. 2012 Team is an example of shameless story manufacturing on the part of the sports media at large. An old story was recycled just for the sake of press. It’s no better than the English tabloids drumming up football transfer rumors and lies, and running the same stories every few months just to sell a headline.

Turn on any talkshow on ESPN today, or any hour of SportsCenter, and LeBron’s quote will be covered, dissected, and dismissed just as Kobe’s was. What won’t make the broadcast though, is LeBron’s follow-up quote:

“As a competitor you never want to say that you will lose no matter who you are going against.”

LeBron pointed out exactly why his quote, Kobe’s quotes, and the entire story is total rubbish. What else is LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet, supposed to say? Anything less than “We’d win,” and images of pre-championship LeBron would be brought back to life. He has no confidence. He lacks Kobe or Jordan’s killer mentality. LeBron was put in a lose-lose situation by reporters just for the sake of a story.

And what was Kobe going to say? He’s the most pathological competitor in basketball today—only Jordan has ever topped Kobe’s mean-streak. Kobe genuinely believes that he could beat anyone in anything. It’s just the way he’s wired. In both Kobe and LeBron’s case, they were set up to deliver controversial quotes before they even answered. There’s a reason why Kevin Love or James Harden weren’t asked these ridiculous questions. 1) Both Love and Harden know that they’d get whooped by Barkley and Drexler, 2) They’re more likely to give more tame answers, just because of who they are, and 3) Nobody gives a fuck about what Kevin Love or James Harden thinks, except for their mothers. These writers went after the 2012 Team’s two top-dogs, and targeted them for sensationalist dialogue, because there’s no big story this Olympics. In 2008, it was all about the “Redeem Team,” and the players rededicating themselves to the USA Basketball cause after 2004’s horror show in Athens. This year, the team is just good, and there’s apparently nothing interesting about just being good. That’s just lazy reporting.

This dives into a much larger problem in sports media. Last month, Mark Cuban Ethered Skip Bayless for the lack of real analysis and the preponderance of storyline fabrication.

It’s no surprise that Cuban went after Bayless, while Stephen A. Smith—another loud-mouth who uses his Southern preacher-like overtures and tones to make points (an example of the classic “Whoever is loudest wins the debate” problem)—stood silent. Smith didn’t want it with Cuban, because he knew that Cuban was right. Bayless and Smith are exactly the talking heads that reporters feed when they ask Kobe or LeBron about the Dream Team. Their spew fills minutes on the air-waves, puts inches in columns, and brings in traffic to ESPN’s army of websites and networks. No wonder coaches and players never say anything of real meaning in interviews—the media doesn’t care if they outline double-teams or shooting percentages—they want the MediaTakeOut quote. It creates a level of distrust that only hurts the conversation.

Let’s see some x’s and o’s drawn up about how the Gasol brothers might take the 2012 Team’s weak interior to the brink of defeat. Let’s point out that LeBron’s ability to play power forward has the team playing small-ball, allowing Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony to run free. Let’s put real sports analysis ahead of talk, and authentic stories ahead of shameless story manufacturing. Let’s be the anti-Bayless.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

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