Skip Bayless will soon appear on Awful Announcing's Mount Rushmore to commemorate his "visceral unctuousness" as Erik Malinowski so expertly put it in this guest column. For Bayless to gain almost 50% of Tuesday's vote against the likes of Chris Berman, Craig James (yes, that Craig James), and Matt Millen is a testament to his unique brand of corrupted punditry over the last year.
Now, there are many who will say this is exactly what Bayless wants. By criticizing Bayless, one promotes his work and gives him some sick twisted sense of satisfaction. There's a burgeoning cry to "don't feed the troll" and pretend that Bayless doesn't exist and isn't being promoted by ESPN at every turn.
This is as much fantasy as Bayless' punditry.
Skip Bayless is a real force in the sports world… for all the wrong reasons. He brings ratings, he brings buzz, he has a committed following, and ESPN has made the decision that any publicity is good publicity and Skip's embracing of debate brings them any publicity first and foremost.
I fundamentally disagree with this notion.
We need Skip Bayless on our Mount Rushmore and we need to continue to call out his antics to hold First Take and ESPN accountable for dumbing down our sports culture and bringing out the worst in sports. I'd much rather call a spade a spade and exert energy exposing Skip Bayless' most recent dumpster fire of a mega-column on LeBron James than be a complicit bystander and allow it to fester unfiltered. Why? Because we should demand better.
Let me clear one thing up before we take a dive into the dark abyss that is the written word of Skip Bayless. I root against LeBron James. I abhor The Decision and what he did to the Cavaliers. But, he doesn't deserve 4,247 words of self-gratifying, non-sensical, baseless information to be written about him by a company that calls themselves the worldwide leader in sports.
Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Bayless: Once more, it has grown cold and dark here on Planet LeBr-Honesty. The population exploded two years ago, but now I'm alone again and oxygen and perspective are in short supply. Someday the "Prometheus" crew might find my remains here, but I will not give in.
All you really need to know about Skip's ESPN.com column is that he started it by pounding his chest as the sole resident of "Planet LeBr-honesty." At least we finally found someone worse than Chris Berman at crafting nicknames. By the way, nice job by Skip right off the top with the completely random Prometheus movie reference from out of nowhere. The same Prometheus that was promoted ad nauseum by ESPN and Stephen A. Smith in commercials. Now it's all coming together. Embrace corporate synergy!
Bayless: The clutch gene, I call it. MJ was born with an oversized clutch gene, LeBron without one. In nine years, LeBron has hit only two walk-off shots — both in 2009.
The existence of the "clutch gene" or "clutchness" has been called into question numerous times. Bayless' go-to argument against LeBron James is that he's not as clutch as Michael Jordan. He wants you to think that Jordan and Kobe, etc. were perfect with the game on the line where LeBron has shrunk from the moment. Sadly for Skip, there are people who have done what Bayless has not and researched this kind of thing.
Chasing23 crunched the numbers. As of last April, Kobe Bryant was 36/115 (31%) attempting a game-tying or game-winning shot and even worse in the Playoffs (28%). Michael Jordan was great with the game on the line, sure, but even he only made 50% of his attempts. LeBron James? More Jordan than Kobe at 42%. But LeBron being more successful at clutch shots than Kobe and almost as good as Jordan doesn't fit Skip Bayless' narrative. Fitting, because it's actually a fact.
Bayless: I think LeBron is a nice guy who has a standing invitation to join us on our show and discuss any and all issues he has with me. I've been told several times in the past five years that he has wanted to but that his advisers didn't think it was good idea. LeBron, in fact, has said several times in interviews that he is entertained and motivated by my criticism and has called me his "Howard Cosell," referring to the fearlessly critical broadcaster whose lovingly tough interviews with Muhammad Ali were sometimes better than The Greatest's fights. Honored, LeBron.
But believe me, I am not being a contrarian for debate's or ratings' sake. I'm simply baffled by the nine-year compulsion to deify LeBron James no matter his obvious flaws. Is it BECAUSE he's such a nice guy? Or because — as some of my "First Take" debate opponents have said — I've helped turn him into a sympathetic figure?
One of several times throughout this column where Skip Bayless makes it all about himself. At the same time Skip Bayless continues to crush LeBron James after winning a championship and averaging 28/10/7 in the NBA Finals, he throws out words like "lovingly tough" and "Howard Cosell" to describe his monorail salesman facade. The fact that Bayless would publicly promote his… whatever… with LeBron James in the same universe as the Cosell-Ali relationship is just gross. You think any respectable sports journalist would write such self-glorifying delusion? Also, if Skip Bayless has to say he's not being a contrarian for debate's or ratings' sake… he's most certainly a contrarian for debate's and ratings' sake.
Bayless: About two months later, the evening of July 8, LeBron sat across from Jim Gray in a special televised by ESPN and said, "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach." The Decision, it was called, mostly derisively, and it turned my life upside down. By the next morning, I was hearing I could be elected mayor of the city that for seven years had considered me Public Enemy No. 1: Cleveland. I had suddenly gone from Most Hated to beloved because LeBron had gone from beloved to having his jersey burned in the Cleveland streets.
Maybe it's just best if we move on from the thought of Skip Bayless, Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. Remember, it was his life that was turned upside down by The Decision, not anyone else.
Bayless: I was told that after the Heat went up 2-1 with a Game 3 win in Dallas, LeBron returned to his hotel room and made a list of people he was going to tell off after he won his first ring. I was No. 1.
Again, in Skip Bayless' world, it's all about Skip Bayless. Because in the middle of the 2011 NBA Finals, I'm sure the #1 thing on the mind of LeBron James was a morning show debater on ESPN2.
Bayless: I echoed the first words out of his mouth, live on ABC, when Game 5 ended: "It's about damn time."
I had picked the Heat before the season and before the Finals. Stephen A. picked the Thunder.
Yet in the days that followed, all I heard from fans, debate foes, players and ex-players was: "You were wrong about LeBron." Heck, I even heard from many Cavs fans who suddenly had forgiven and forgotten.
Ok… so let me get this straight. Skip Bayless picked the Miami Heat to win the NBA title in spite of LeBron James and his perceived lack of a clutch gene? This is the epitome of playing both sides. Bayless is proven wrong and LeBron James wins a championship? Never mind, because that's exactly what Bayless predicted. Oh, how perfect. Now the light bulb is finally flickering on.
Bayless: I remain skeptical LeBron is much if any better than he was after Game 1 of the Finals. I say his demons remain. I feel sorry for the guy. I say the pressure on him is even greater than it was a year ago. Not just two, LeBron. Or three. Or four … Way out here in outer space, I sit alone, doubting whether LeBron will ever even come close to living up to the Beyond Jordan expectations he helped create.
Alas, here we are again. Skip Bayless will shout from the highest mountaintop that he stands alone somewhere, anywhere, because he needs to stand alone to justify his existence. He needs to be the contrarian, the troll, the instigator, the baitor, the pantomime villain, the _________ to survive. Skip Bayless needs to write ludicrous things about feeling sorry for LeBron James because without it his persona and relevance would evaporate. This is the corner Bayless and ESPN have painted him into. There's nowhere else to go.
So after trolling LeBron James and the sports world over James' inability to win one championship, Skip Bayless will now troll LeBron James and the sports world over James' inability to win two championships. Then three. Then four. Then five…