For Golden State, capturing the NBA title was almost as important as settling media feuds, social media scores, or whatever you want to call them.
It wasn’t long after the Warriors won the title that Steph Curry was behind a microphone sticking it to (without naming him) ESPN NBA analyst Kendrick Perkins. In August, Perkins predicted the sharpshooter would not win another ring in the next four years.
And along the celebratory parade route, the self-anointed “new media” guru Draymond Green found his chance to get even. He was not as diplomatic as Curry. “If they ever doubted — this is live TV, right — bleep ’em,” Green said.
More Green: “I warned y’all, so I’m just going to continue to destroy people on Twitter, as I have been, and Instagram stories.”
Such is life in the NBA, where responding to Tweets, making Instagram deposits, amplifies the art of trash talking. Cats like Green, Curry, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and a whole lot of other guys are more media personalities than one-dimensional, hardcore, NBA players.
Green even has a seat waiting for him on TNT’s NBA coverage when he retires. On the surface, this all looks good for the NBA. The off-court drama provides plenty of material — even when school is not in session.
This ”gossipy” dimension should bring more casual fans inside the NBA’s big tent. Do the “reality show” elements of the league, and the way that is covered, have a substantial positive impact on overall viewership of the NBA’s postseason events where the big moo-la-dee is made? Or does it turn “fans” off?
That equation is hard to quantify. For what it’s worth, total average viewership for the 2022 Finals did not measure up to the 15 million average viewership for the pre-pandemic 2019 Finals. The viewership numbers for the 2022 Finals didn’t blow anyone out of the water.
Legions of eyeballs follow the league through highlight clips on the internet and get news (some of it directly from players) on social media. For some, tuning in for a full three-hour tilt is not exactly must-see TV. It’s not necessary to invest a hefty block of time to be entertained or find out what’s happening.
Platforms benefitting the most from the NBA soap opera are debate shows like “First Take” (ESPN), “Undisputed” (FS1), Valley of the Stupid offerings and podcasts that talk basketball.
Gasbags are feasting on the latest chapter in the Nets-Irving-Durant saga, which should be made into a docu-drama. The story can easily be followed through the words, or lack thereof, delivered by Durant.
The same Durant, who unlike the scribes assigned to cover HIS coverage of the story, has a personal interest in the situation.
It’s confusing. Yet very NBAish, right?
BELTRAN’S BOOTH STUMBLES
Carlos Beltran’s struggles at the microphone continued during Game 1of the Astros series.
Beltran, performing before an average of 456,000 viewers Thursday night on YES, made obvious points, delivered in a nearly monotone style. And he often just verbally rubber-stamped the analysis offered by his YES colleague David Cone. Hiring Beltran was a good idea. His reputation his in baseball as an excellent communicator, a manager-in-waiting, resulted in high expectations.
And considering how he was scapegoated in the Astros cheating scandal, Beltran deserved a platform that would re-connect him with the game.
From a broadcasting perspective, Beltran looked good on paper. But how long can YES president of production/programming John J. Filippelli, wait for Beltran to meet those expectations before shuffling the deck? After all, not many baseball analysts become overnight sensations. It sometimes takes a hefty amount of game repetitions before there is a break-through.
Still, there could be an interim step for Beltran if he continues to stumble. He could be moved to YES’ Yankees studio. The controlled environment might loosen him up. The atmosphere might help him relax. That’s something he needs to do.
RATING THE REPLACEMENTS
The Yankees, and their WFAN radio partners, offered up two distinctly different styles in the voices they used to sit in John (Pa Pinstripe) Sterling’s seat last week, while Pa was “enjoying” his forced exile.
For those who like audio dynamite, there was Rickie Ricardo, the voice of Bombers Spanish radiocasts. Ricardo is high energy and flamboyant. You will not fall asleep under his watch his. While he likes to cut the pie, he also pays attention to little things like actually letting listeners know where the defense is positioned. Fortunately, he didn’t have a HR call for every player. And Sterling’s “the Yankees win!” call was replaced by “What does it smell like folks? It smells like Vic-Tor-Y.”
On the other side of the mountain sat Justin Shackil who, among other things, is the Yankees digital reporter. A good listen, Shackil stuck to nuts and bolts. And he didn’t rent Sterling’s pom-poms while working the Toronto series. Shackil painted an effective, precise word picture. Most importantly, Shackil is likeable.
If we were forced to declare a winner here, it would be Suzyn (Ma Pinstripe) Waldman. She didn’t have to clean up any messes.
NO TAKE TV
With CJ McCollum returning to the “First Take” panel Last week, Stephen A. Smith found it necessary to deliver a preamble to the NBA Players Assn. prez’s appearance.
“We know there are things you can’t say,” SAS proclaimed, providing instant cover for McCollum.
Smith was right.
The subject was Kyrie Irving, specifically how his propensity for missing games could expand into a collective bargaining subject at the negotiating table? When McCollum was asked to answer that question, he put on his tap-dancing shoes his. He rambled on until Kendrick Perkins finally answered the question for him.
Again, what is the purpose of having, and paying, McCollum for his educated opinions if he’s going to verbally bob-and-weave on the topic of contract negotiations? If the “First Take” crew is going to accept McCollum’s pablum, it might have well put an owner on the show so we can watch two people say nothing about NBA contract negotiations.
AROUND THE DIAL
For reasons known only to him, WFAN’s Gregg Giannotti thought it was a great idea to take issue with SXM’s Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo revealing his First Take salary ($10,000 per appearance for 40 appearances) during an interview with Howard Stern. Giannotti thought ESPN suits would not be thrilled with Russo talking personal finances. We’re sure Doggie is shaking in his boots. … The way SNY’s Gary Cohen was complaining last Saturday, viewers would have thought he was calling Marlins-Mets from a booth in Antarctica. Cohen brought new meaning to the word “chilling.”… Astros-Yankees on YES Thursday night peaked at 696,000 total viewers from 10:15 to 10:30 pm Yankees game viewership is up 15% over last season. Guess pinstriped eyeballs have yet to become tired of winning.
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DUDE OF THE WEEK: VANN McELROY
Never forgetting his deep roots in Uvalde, Texas, McElroy, the former Raiders star, reached out to his former team to support the devastated community. That connection to the Raiders paid off. Owner Mark Davis authorized a $1 million donation for a city reeling from an unspeakable tragedy.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: RON DeSANTIS
When the Florida Governor vetoes legislation over funding of a sports facility for a local area team, the Tampa Bay Rays, based on his interpretation of the team’s socially-minded initiative on gun control, it’s time to call out his brazen conduct. So, there.
What Eduardo Escobar said: “I think saying, ‘give me a couple of days off’ is essentially giving up.”
What Eduardo Escobar meant to say: “If I’m not hitting, I’m not playing.”