My criticism usually falls into two, interrelated, camps: the majority of content is either devoid of original and critical thought, or it exists solely to feed into the NBA echo chamber and hype machine. A perfect example of the former is just about every sideline interview ever conducted with a player or coach actively involved with the game. A typical sideline reporter will slide up to the coach of the losing team at the beginning of the third quarter and ask something bland like, “coach, what does your team have to change to win this game?” and the coach will respond with a non-answer that is obvious to any casual observer of the game, like, “we just need to play better defense and make our open shots.”
With that in mind, rewind to Sunday afternoon (in London). The United States Men’s Basketball Team has just won the gold medal in the Olympics, overcoming a feisty Spain. Kevin Durant has just played an amazing tournament, taking over the United States Olympic scoring record, and was perhaps the best player in London. Spain certainly thought so, as they tried a bit of defensive trickery (a box-and-one) to contain him. Not LeBron. Not Kobe. Kevin Durant.
Craig Sager, who decided his ticket to fame would present itself more easily by wearing garish suits than becoming a good reporter (seriously, since when do REPORTERS need to have a shtick?), interviews the aforementioned trio after the win. I’d embed the video in this post but NBC doesn’t allow it, so check it out here. Sager starts out the interview by asking each of the three a fairly standard set of interview questions. He then asks LeBron:
“What an incredible few months. NBA championship. NBA MVP. Gold Medal. Can you put it into words for us?”
What. A. Dick. Kevin Durant, the man who lost to LeBron in the NBA Finals, the man who described to reporters a month ago how difficult it was for him to play with LeBron on the Olympic team after that Finals loss, was standing right there. You can see Durant become visibly upset with the question as he first looks up and then away, with an expression of I have to sit here and listen to this shit? on his face.
I have two big problems with his question. The first is that it isn’t, as Sean Connery once explained to us, a soup question. If purpose of a question is to obtain information that is important, this barely even counts as a question. The second is that there is a time and a place for everything, and after winning the Olympic Gold Medal is most definitely not the correct time to rehash painful memories. In fact, it’s one of the few times in which, if you view sports and media through an “Entertain me!” lens, a softball question is appropriate. After watching Team USA triumph, I’m sure there are a lot of people who would’ve appreciated an opportunity for LeBron to wax about his patriotism, how much playing for Team USA meant for him etc. I would’ve preferred something more interesting, but to each their own. We can certainly all agree that what Sager asked was inappropriate.
Sager followed up his doozy of a “question” with another. It began with him still talking to LeBron but trailing off, and directing the end of the "question" to Durant:
“You took away Kevin Durant’s chance for an NBA Championship, but you have been close friends here. How did the chemistry all come together for you guys?”
Like LeBron, Durant deflected and handled the question well, but I really wish LeBron had interrupted:
Craig, it is difficult to excel in basketball. There are so many good, talented, hardworking players that all want to win as badly as you did. The basketball court is an anxiety-filled place. There are ten players, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, being watched by millions around the world. Unlike you, we don’t have the luxury of hiding our inadequacy behind polyester travesties of nature. Kevin here is hands down one of the basketball players in the world, and was our best player on this Olympic team. He has just achieved something amazing—leading his team to Olympic Gold—while being the focus of every opposing team’s defense. He also led his NBA team through the tough Western Conference to the NBA Finals. He has had an amazing year.
So why do you have to be such a dick? Why do you have to bring up irrelevant shit from the past with the sole purpose of riling somebody up? You’re not learning anything interesting from these question, you’re just making a man feel bad about his amazing accomplishments, which nobody is allowed to do, and especially not a talentless hack like yourself.
I understand that we are all so fortunate to be paid to play a game we love, and that there are a lot of responsibilities and duties, like talking to the media, that comes along with that. It is a trade that we are all happy to make because basketball means so much to us. But just because you have on a little badge that says “journalist” doesn’t give you a right to belittle a man and try to bring him down. C’mon, we’re out of here.