Sunday, May 06, 2007

ESPN Defines Itself

Not two minutes ago on the telecast of the Nets-Cavaliers' opening game of their playoff series, Mike Tirico made the following statement, "LeBron James is the biggest star remaining in the NBA playoffs."

Catching himself, Tirico quickly added, "I say that with all due respect to two-time defending MVP Steve Nash, who'll finish first or second in the voting this year."

The jaw drops. The mind boggles. How, exactly, does one become a bigger star in a professional sport than a league's Most Valuable Player? James has never had a sniff of that award, although in time he will. And Tirico's airy dismissal of Nash wasn't even the most amazing part of his statement. That would be the name he omitted completely-Tim Duncan.

You must remember him Mike. He would be the past MVP who's a three-time NBA champion with a damn fine chance to make it four. Obviously, in Tirico's mind, "star" means something entirely different than its accepted definition of "really outstanding player."

James is an outstanding player. He is not as good as Nash or Duncan, and I doubt many people outside ESPN's cherished 12-year olds- of-all-ages demographic would try to argue the point.

And that, of course, IS the point of Tirico's comment. He wasn't shading the truth. Tirico honestly believes an athlete's ability to help sell useless crap to the American public is what defines a real star. After all, that ability is at the heart of the phenomenally successful organization that employs him. We hype, therefore we are. On the ESPN hype scale, James is fourth, trailing only the NFL, Tiger Woods, and things Yankee and Red Sox.

The sad thing is, David Stern probably agrees with Tirico's definition of basketball stardom.


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