It's well-known that Skip Bayless has an obsession with LeBron James. Though he denies it in this column, it's true. Why else would Skip talk about LeBron at every possible moment, other than to be known as the official LeBron hater and get ratings for "First Take" based on what inane comment he will make about LeBron next? Skip takes offense to the fact people believe he doesn't like LeBron and instead says he likes him, but it's just that LeBron lacks an intangible that Skip can't put his finger on. Since it is an intangible, that probably explains why Skip can't put his finger on it. Either way, Skip is making himself part of the story as he is prone to do in a desperate bid to keep some sense of relevance in a world tired of his act and is quickly turning him into a punchline.
At the risk of damaging the "First Take" ratings,
Which, by the way, are already being damaged by the fact people are becoming increasingly weary of Skip's antics.
the God's truth is I do not hate LeBron James. I actually like the man, who seems as close to being a role model as any superstar can be.
You like how he inserts himself into the LeBron narrative? He goes on and on about how LeBron is a disappointment, knocks him on the air repeatedly, and then has to clarify that he doesn't like LeBron. He wants to be known as the LeBron hater and then wants to clarify it's all business. By clarifying he doesn't hate LeBron he further inserts himself into the LeBron narrative by reminding everyone he constantly criticizes LeBron when possible.
But this question continues to plague me like South Beach humidity: Now
that LeBron has re-established himself (post-Decision) as a Good Guy,
and now that he has won two championships and four MVPs, should any criticism of him now be dismissed as unfair? Even un-American?
I mean this in the most mean-spirited way possible...Skip is a complete moron. Of course any criticism of LeBron can't be dismissed as unfair and saying it's "un-American" is the type of intentional exaggeration that causes Skip Bayless to be the punchline to a joke no one wants to hear anymore. LeBron can be criticized, it's only that ridiculous and inconsistent criticism which Skip Bayless specializes in that should be toned down as much as possible. Of course, Skip Bayless can't tone anything down because he craves attention so badly.
For media members, should LeBron James, universally acknowledged as the
Best Player in the World, now be above and beyond questioning as a
basketball player? Should all of his past failures be expunged from his
record, never to be mentioned again?
I don't understand why Skip seems to think LeBron is now above questioning as a basketball player. Mostly, I think he is trying to take an extreme position (LeBron now being above criticism) in order to justify his continuing criticism of LeBron. It's sort of the same thing JemeHill has done in the past with her writing. She takes a position nobody truly believes and then proves that position as being incorrect in order to make a point she originally wanted to make. So of course it is ridiculous to think LeBron is above criticism, but he should always have been above some of the ridiculous and trolling criticism that Skip has levied at him multiple times in the past.
On Wednesday's show, I dared to place the bulk of the NBA Finals Game 3
blame on LeBron, who in the final three quarters contributed 8 points, 7
turnovers and zero free throw attempts and became strangely disengaged
on offense, even as Miami cut a 25-point lead to seven late in the third
What a shock, it's all about Skip Bayless and his need to move a "First Take" debate into print form. Skip dared to place the blame for a team's loss solely on LeBron and someone disagreed with him, so the only logical takeaway from this is that LeBron should never be criticized again for his shortcomings or not playing well in a big game. In the extreme, trolling mind of Skip Bayless LeBron either deserves a mountain of criticism or should be immune from any criticism. There is no in-between, nor should there be in a world where "Embrace Debate" is the only thing that matters and nuance goes out the door along with "First Take's" ratings.
My debate partner, Stephen A. Smith, condemned me for being "so
disrespectful" and let LeBron off the hook by saying he "looked tired."
The world's greatest and fittest athlete got tired after a sensational
first quarter (14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, 2-for-2 on 3s, 2 free
throws) of a pivotal Game 3 in His House?
What if LeBron had scored 14 points in the fourth quarter of the game rather than the first quarter? He would have still ended up with the same final statistics, but the narrative would have been totally turned around. LeBron stepped his game up when he needed to. That's not the nuance Skip is looking for though, while trying to turn his outlandish debate show into a column idea.
No, LeBron should not be immune from criticism, and no, it should not be about Skip Bayless in any way, no matter how hard Skip wants to make any debate about LeBron James really about Skip Bayless and the next hot sports take he has.
After Game 1 of the NBA Finals -- you know, the Cramp Game -- LeBron
told ESPN's Michael Wilbon that he has become "the easiest target in
sports." I was dumbfounded.
Which honestly, given the intelligence of Skip Bayless isn't really that difficult. Skip gets dumbfounded trying to recite the alphabet or tie his shoes in the morning.
Easiest target? How about most overprotected superstar? Didn't anyone
else see this as a rather pathetic plea for sympathy after LeBron had
let down his team?
See, this is the type of criticism by Skip Bayless that I easily classify as "ridiculous" and only serves to prove to me that Skip doesn't care to get the point or is actively trying to miss the point. Cramps are a valid reason to miss part of a basketball game. In fact, as it was well-documented after the game, the great and completely infallible (revisionist history version) Michael Jordan left a game one time due to cramps. Jordan came back and scored 154 points and saved four children from a burning building during a timeout, but he still left the game with cramps.
Skip makes his living being an infuriating person, I understand this. He questions in this column whether LeBron is above all criticism now that he has won two NBA Titles, which is silly, and then proceeds to criticize LeBron for letting down his team due to leaving a game with cramps. Skip is either not smart enough or doesn't care to understand the difference in valid and invalid criticism. Criticizing LeBron for losing three of the five NBA Finals he has played in is a very valid criticism. Criticizing LeBron for letting down his team due to cramps is not a valid criticism. Cramps are painful and plenty of athletes have left a sporting event due to a sudden onset of cramps. It happens. The fact Skip criticizes LeBron for letting his team down in this situation only goes to prove LeBron's contention he is the easiest target in sports. Skip's rebuttal to LeBron's contention only helps to show LeBron's contention as valid. If Skip were smart enough to read he could look up "irony" in the dictionary and see this is perhaps an example of irony.
But of the media members I follow, all are pro-LeBron -- most of them
passionately so -- and most are extremely slow to criticize him and
quick to give him a pass. Maybe they are right in their approach and I
am stubbornly wrong.
It's all about Skip Bayless. Maybe Skip is wrong about LeBron. Because it's only about right and wrong and there is no in-between and certainly Skip can't be a neutral observer of LeBron's career and serve as a commentator who merely gives his opinion without inserting himself into part of the story. What's the fun in that?
But throughout LeBron's 11-year career, I have merely attempted to
remain objective, applauding when he is all-time great yet pointing out
on air and in print when his obvious intangible flaws get the best of
Yes, when LeBron's obvious intangible flaws get the best of him. Another phrase that can be used for "obvious intangible flaws" is "flaws I can create out of thin air in order to gain attention and because they are intangible it means no one can call me on my bullshit until I contradict myself, which I do on a frequent basis."
Isn't it nice how Skip is all like, "I try to be objective" and then basically admits there is nothing basketball-related he can criticize LeBron for, so he has to start making shit up for the sake of debate. And yes, I realize intangibles are real, but I also realize that Skip Bayless tends to rely on "LeBron isn't clutch" or "LeBron just doesn't have the winning gene" for the sake of getting attention.
So I've always stood out like a, well, cramped thumb. I'm LeBron's "No. 1 Critic" and his "Biggest Hater."
A cramped thumb doesn't stand out. Only the person with the cramped thumb would know he has a cramped thumb. Also, it's all about Skip. This is the most important lesson to be learned from this column. Skip, and his opinion on LeBron, is probably the most important lesson of the 21st century in fact.
I feel a little like Shailene Woodley's character in "Divergent." The
government is going to eliminate me because I don't fit in.
Great reference from Skip that will help him target that all-important tween demographic that are the only ones gullible and stupid enough to fall for his strawman arguments.
Sometimes I feel like the easiest target in sports.
I've constantly heard during the nearly 10 years I've been on "First
Take" (formerly "Cold Pizza") that I bash LeBron just to boost ratings.
"First Take's" ratings are slowly declining no matter how much Skip bashes LeBron. The joke is on us! "First Take" doesn't even get good ratings anymore, so we should all feel really stupid for thinking Skip bashes LeBron to boost ratings.
I merely react to what I see or don't see from LeBron, great and
bad, and I always back it up with facts.
ALWAYS with facts. No exceptions.
Just hope no one smart is debating Skip, that's all.
As the Cramp Game ended with LeBron on the bench, watching San Antonio
pull away and win by 15, he was already being ridiculed across the
Internet by "crybaby LeBron" memes. In this case, "they" got it right --
whoever "they" are.
It's almost like LeBron is an easy target.
I didn't express any on-air doubt that LeBron had a cramp. He obviously
did, and once your leg locks up, you're done -- although LeBron did
return from an announced cramp in Game 4 of the 2012 Finals to hit the
go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:50 left.
So in summary, Skip Bayless believes LeBron had a cramp. Cramps hurt. So Skip has no problem with LeBron having a cramp and leaving the game. It just means LeBron is a crybaby and lacks intangibles. Plus, Skip will use the one time LeBron did fight through a cramp as proof, not proof that LeBron can tough through a cramp, but proof that LeBron just wasn't tough enough in this specific instance to stay in the game against the Spurs. You like how Skip turns LeBron's toughness into a negative?
It was LeBron's responsibility to immediately drink more, take salt
pills, eat a banana to increase potassium -- whatever it took. Somehow
17 other players played in that sweatbox without cramping. The Heat
medical/training staff also deserved some blame -- although a Heat
insider speculated that LeBron puts so much pressure on himself for
Finals games that anxiety might have contributed to the cramping.
Who cares if there is a logical explanation for LeBron cramping. It's the intangibles that are the real problem!
Again, shaky intangibles.
Caring too much, putting pressure on yourself to play well and wanting to succeed are shaky intangibles. In other news, Derek Jeter's entire career now means nothing if this is true.
But what compounded the crisis for the Heat was LeBron's body language. He can be such a Drama King.
It's not that Skip doesn't believe LeBron had a cramp. It's that LeBron let everyone see how much the cramp hurt. What a drama queen! Wait, is that Paul Pierce being rolled off the court in a wheelchair?
he soon made a layup but appeared to cramp as he stopped along the
baseline, this time waving for assistance. A grimacing LeBron had to be
carried all the way to the bench. This is what "they" made fun of on the
Sure, Skip admits once a player has a cramp then he is done, but was it too much to ask that LeBron just calmly walk off the court and not appear to be in any pain? That way Skip could question whether LeBron even had a cramp and then accuse him of quitting on his teammates.
See, despite his appeals that he doesn't hate LeBron, the result of LeBron calmly walking off the court or not appearing to be in pain would be that Skip Bayless would question whether LeBron was even injured. It's true. LeBron is in a no-win situation with Skip. Show too much pain and he is a Drama King (capitalized!), not show enough pain then he's a quitter. This is why Skip gets accused of hating LeBron, because everyone knows Skip Bayless will find a reason to criticize LeBron James.
He made such a spectacle of his cramping that it did appear to distract
and deflate his teammates, who proceeded to get blown off the floor by
They could have been deflated because they lost their best player, which is obviously LeBron James' fault. He's a choker who can't help his team win because he comes up short in big situations, but Skip also feels free to criticize LeBron for not being on the court when his team needs him (presumably to come up small in big situations). Either way, Skip will find a way to criticize LeBron.
The point: In social media, LeBron isn't treated with nearly the
reverence he is by the traditional media. Here LeBron has a point: He
just might be the easiest Internet target in sports. He also has brought
much of that on himself.
Skip Bayless earlier in this column: "LeBron isn't the easiest target in sports. Ridiculous."
Skip Bayless earlier in this column: "I criticize LeBron but I only use facts."
Skip Bayless now: "LeBron may be the easiest target in sports, but it's all his fault."
Skip Bayless five minutes from now: "LeBron is just feeling sorry for himself and he isn't the easiest target in sports."
Of course, media colleagues have accused me of inciting Internet riots with my on-air criticism.
BUT ONLY BECAUSE YOU ARE SO IMPORTANT SKIP! STARE AT YOURSELF NAKED IN THE MIRROR ONE MORE TIME YOU IMPORTANT LITTLE MAN YOU!
Fact: LeBron still has made only three buzzer-beaters in his career, a
2-point jumper at Golden State in 2009, the 3-pointer off an inbounds
pass against Orlando in the 2009 playoffs and the layup that beat
Indiana in last year's playoffs. Hence my longtime stance that he wasn't
born with the "clutch gene."
And the clutch gene is a fact and not something Skip has made up.
Fact: LeBron froze up so stunningly in the 2011 Finals against Dallas
that even Stephen A. Smith agreed with me that LeBron had qualified as
the "mentally weakest superstar ever."
Stephen A. Smith agreeing with you is like being the fastest guy in a wheelchair at a retirement home. Yeah, he agreed with you, but it's Stephen A. Smith.
But: Ray Allen
saved LeBron's legacy by quick-triggering that corner 3 that sent the
game to overtime and the Heat to a second straight title. If that shot
had missed, LeBron would be 1-3 in the Finals.
If LeBron had a better supporting cast than Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden then he could be 3-2 in the NBA Finals. If Skip Bayless were born a tree instead of a human then he may have been run through a wood chipper at this point. If a frog had wings it wouldn't bump it's ass on the ground.
When LeBron plays great, I see polls and hear analysts predict he'll be greater than Michael Jordan. When LeBron fails, all I hear is that the Jordan comparison is unfair. Which is it?
Which diametrically opposing sides of this issue is true? Because it can't be somewhere in the middle and there can't be nuance. It's one or the other. Stephen A. Smith agrees with Skip on this issue. Either LeBron is better than Michael Jordan or a comparison to Jordan is unfair. It can't be anything in the middle. Embrace debate.
After each Finals game, I get more and more confused about how to view LeBron James.
Then maybe you should do us all a favor and just stop talking about him completely. You know, since you aren't obsessed with him, don't hate him and don't bash him for ratings, then it wouldn't hurt anything if you just stopped talking about LeBron, right?