The NBA media is fighting back.
The relationship between NBA players and the media has always been an interesting one. The media members are incentivized to develop relationships with the games’ greats, giving them the inside track to exclusive interviews and breaking stories. And while it does give certain members access many crave, it also creates hesitancy when the time comes to criticize.
But even the media have their breaking point.
The NBA started their 2021 season on December 22, 2020, 71 days after the conclusion of the bubble in Orlando, Florida. It was the shortest offseason in the history of the league, and players were not thrilled.
LeBron James voiced his displeasure from the get-go, telling reporters before the season that he disagreed with the early start.
“I was like, ‘Wow.’ And I said, ‘Oh, s***,’” James said on December 7. “Just being completely honest, I wasn’t expecting that because early conversations were going on and I was hearing that there would be kind of a mid-January start and training camp would kind of start after Christmas.”
After a season that saw an uptick in injuries, the NBA Playoffs have seen teams decimated by ailments affecting their superstars.
Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Trae Young, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard — to name a few — all missed postseason games due to injuries. It caused James to remind everyone that he was one of the first to say this would happen.
They all didn’t wanna listen to me about the start of the season. I knew exactly what would happen. I only wanted to protect the well being of the players which ultimately is the PRODUCT & BENEFIT of OUR GAME! These injuries isn’t just “PART OF THE GAME”. It’s the lack of PURE RIM REST rest before starting back up. 8, possibly 9 ALL-STARS has missed Playoff games(most in league history). This is the best time of the year for our league and fans but missing a ton of our fav players. It’s insane. If there’s one person that know about the body and how it works all year round it’s ME! I speak for the health of all our players and I hate to see this many injuries this time of the year. Sorry fans wish you guys were seeing all your fav guys right now.
Luckily, the NBA media isn’t allowing James to get away with it.
On Tuesday, TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal went on CNBC and seemed to disagree with James’ view that the injuries were due to the quick offseason, mentioning that he’s tired of the millionaires complaining.
“When you’re living in a world where 40 million people have been laid off and I’m making $200 million, you won’t get no complaining from me,” O’Neal said. “I’d play back to back to back to back to back.”
“I’m not knocking what anybody said, but me personally, I don’t complain and make excuses, because real people are working their tail off and all we gotta do is train two hours a day and then play a game for two hours at night and make a lot of money … So my thought process is a little different.”
On Wednesday, ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith backed O’Neal on “First Take,” taking issue with James specifically for complaining about the NBA schedule as well as the increased sensitivity of NBA players.
“The fact of the matter is LeBron was incredibly wrong,” Smith said. “And I agree with Shaq. A lot of these players complain too damn much.”
“It’s not just about these games, and it’s not just about play after bubble-play … We can’t even analyze basketball anymore without dudes getting caught up in their feelings.”
In the past several years, NBA players have become increasingly sensitive to criticism, often calling out media members who they feel have unfairly targeted them.
“Who’s the ring-leader with that stuff? It’s LeBron. He can drop 50, he can drop 60 — and we all know we love and respect the hell out of this phenomenal role model that is LeBron James — but let’s call a spade a spade,” Smith said as he laid into James. “He can drop 50 or 60, you can praise him until the cows come home. He got a big glowing smile on his face and he’ll sit and talk to the media for hours. But, let him have a bad game and you point that out … ‘I’m just trying to be a role model to the kids out there, I’m a champion in life, I came from Akron.’”
“What the hell does that have to do with the fact that you struggled in this game. This is what they do. And they do this now more than ever.”
Smith also echoed O’Neal’s thoughts that players making millions a year to play a game shouldn’t be complaining about a sped-up offseason.
“They stopped play March 11th. They had four and a half months off. A vast majority of them only played six weeks,” Smith continued. “And they come back after three months off (after the offseason) and they play in December. How much time do you want off!?”
"We can't even analyze basketball anymore, without dudes being caught up in their feelings."
— First Take (@FirstTake) June 30, 2021
NBA players – James in particular — are able to get away with almost everything. Good for O’Neal and Smith for drawing a line in the sand.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.