The NBA Needs To Pull On The Reins

Since yesterday’s rant dealt entirely with the merger of the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, let me offer here an interesting slant on that event.  Brad Dickson – formerly a columnist with the Omaha World-Herald – posted this Tweet yesterday:

“Breaking news: The PGA just announced plans to merge with ISIS.”

And that puts everything into sharp focus there…

The NBA Finals continue and are providing some entertaining games.  The Nuggets currently lead the Heat two games to one, but the NBA is having difficulty maintaining the news focus on those Finals.  When the NFL goes into its two-week pause leading up to the Super Bowl, the focus is on the game and the teams and the players; the NFL tends to control the narrative.  One way they do that is to be sure that there are no free agents until after the Super Bowl.  The NBA has as many “loose ends” out there as a plate of linguine.  Consider:

  • The Ja Morant saga.  The league hinted that it found “more info” during its “investigation” but won’t let anyone in on the details until after the Finals.  As if that would stop speculative/sensationalist reports during the finals.
  • James Harden is a free agent and breathless reports say that he is “torn between two teams” as his next career stop.  Who cares?  Why is this allowed to distract attention from the Finals?
  • Kyrie Irving is a free agent, and the Mavs insist they want to re-sign him.  Not to be outdone in the spotlight even by Mark Cuban, Irving has called on LeBron James to come to Dallas to play alongside Irving there.  Why is this allowed to distract attention from the Finals?

I am certainly not going to try to pretend that I am a “Communications Guru” or a “PR Expert”, but it does seem to me that the NBA Finals – – the event that has been the league’s Holy Grail since last November – – ought to stand clean in the media space.  It should be a time for fans to temporarily forget/ignore many of the annoying and ongoing stories related to the NBA such as:

  • Load management
  • Teams admitting they tanked games to get a better draft shot.
  • Teams denying they tanked games to get a better draft shot.
  • Trade demands churning rosters around the league.

But the NBA has shown that it does not have the wherewithal to control the narrative during its Finals series and the league’s warts remain on display when they should not.

Moving on …  There have been two big stories about sports media recently.  First, it seems that Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe are “breaking up” and will no longer be the co-hosts on FS1’s Undisputed.  There have been plenty of speculative pieces produced trying to explain how this came to be.  I have seen reports saying that audiences for Undisputed are in the 100K – 150K range; that indicates to me that the show is not working in the very important area of drawing and maintaining an audience.  [Aside:  As a point of reference, the estimated population of Joliet Illinois in 2022 was 150,033.  So, the audience for Undisputed is equivalent to everyone in Joliet tuning in but no one else in the US tuning in.  Not good …]

Skip Bayless has a lucrative contract with FOX for the show, so the objective on Mahogany Row at FOX Sports must be to find a way to pair someone with Bayless who will increase the audience levels.  I have no suggestions as to who that might be, but someone somewhere needs to come up with a good idea there.

The other sports media story du jour is that Pat McAfee is going to “take his podcast” to ESPN and that podcast will be available on ESPN, the ESPN app and the ESPN You Tube Channel.  The NY Post says that McAfee’s deal with ESPN is for 5 years and $85M.  McAfee says that his show will not change and the bosses at ESPN have not told him to change anything.  I do not believe that at all:

  • One “feature” of the podcast is the interaction between McAfee with his crew and with his guests and Pat McAfee probably averages 10 “F-bombs” per hour.
  • I just do not believe that ESPN is going to accept that sort of programming for very long.

This big contract for McAfee comes while ESPN – – and parent Disney Corp – – are laying off lots of staff employees.  That could be an interesting thing to watch …

If McAfee takes the Noon to 3:00 PM slot on ESPN, that will displace two hours of SportsCenter and Max Kellerman’s one-hour show, This Just In.  I doubt that anyone will miss the two hours of SportsCenter at midday; it is always a cobbled together presentation of stale last night’s news/results with an attempt to make them sound fresh and exciting.  Pre-empting Max Kellerman’s show is different; Kellerman is an interesting piece in the world of sports debate programming.  He is opinionated without being “in your face”; he makes cogent points and will go toe-to-toe with anyone who holds a different perspective on a subject.  I, for one, hope ESPN finds a slot for him somewhere on one of their networks.

But no, I do not want to see Max Kellerman leave ESPN and slide over the FS1 to square off with Skip Bayless.  For me, that is not a marriage made in Heaven.

Finally, let me close today with an anecdote involving the playwright George S. Kaufman:

Kaufman was a bridge fanatic who did not suffer incompetent players gladly.  When one particularly inept partner asked to be excused to go to the men’s room, Kaufman replied, “Gladly – for the first time today I’ll know what you have in your hand.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



6 thoughts on “The NBA Needs To Pull On The Reins”

  1. I think Sports Curmudgeon needs to join Skip Bayless.

    If PGA joined with ISIS, would it become PIGS?

    1. TenaciousP:

      I have a face made for radio. AND I did sports broadcasting on the college radio station back in the day. I was so bad that I did not like to listen to myself when I reviewed the tapes of the games.

      FOX Sports will NOT be calling …

  2. a problem with the NBA is they have promoted their stars, who then think that THEIR “brand” is paramount and they will take any opportunity to promote themselves when the media are looking at basketball.

    and the league has let “load management” go on too long.

    also tanking. You could cut down on it a lot by doing things like “First overall – no more than once every 10 years. Top 3 – no more than once every 5 years” both much more than random. Don’t reward bad management. Fewer teams would be eligible to tank.

    1. Ed:

      I like your thinking. Maybe you can replace Adam Silver. Your face for radio and voice for print would not stand in the way …

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