Chris Russo torches Lakers for In-Season Tournament banner (Credit: First Take)

At this point, ESPN may be better served by doing a segment to find out the things that Chris “Mad Dog” Russo enjoys in life. Of course, Russo’s “What Are You Mad About” segment is an integral part of First Take.

But The Doggie is getting himself worked up every day, whether it’s from ESPN’s Seaport studio or on his Sirius XM radio show. That’s just part of his charm, though.

And speaking of charm, the Los Angeles sports scene, whether it’s Shohei Ohtani or the Lakers, hasn’t endeared itself to Russo as of late. On Wednesday, he took to First Take to pick a bone with the NBA’s In-Season Tournamnent winners.

“Can you imagine what Elgin Baylor is doing right now?” asked Russo while his colleagues fell over themselves laughing in the background. “How about Jerry West? The logo. Kareem (Abdul-Jabar)…How about Gail Goodrich? Look them up. Happy Hairston, Jimmy McMillan, alright? Pau Gasol, God rest his soul, Kobe (Bryant).”

“We are going to drink champagne after we win a regular season tournament — the first inaugural — in the locker room. And then, to top it off, they got 18-19 banners. How many championships? 17. And they’re drinking champagne, and then they’re going to raise a banner in the rafters in LA for winning this inaugural tournament?

“Banners are for championships and retired numbers! They’re not for a four-game series in the middle of November. And I’m not knocking the inaugural tournament; (NBA Commissioner Adam) Silver did a great job with it. I’m not knocking it, but you have to have a little perspective here.”

“The Lakers are the lands of West and Baylor and Wilt (Chamberlin) and Kareem and Jamaal Wilkes. And how about Pat Riley? You think Riley liked to see that when he was in Miami, watching them put the freaking banner up? Pat must’ve thrown up when he saw that.”

The only one close to throwing up here was Russo, who turned completely red in the face as he took the Lakers to task for celebrating winning the NBA’s first In-Season Tournament as if it was the NBA Finals.

“How about Magic Johnson? Do you think Magic liked that? How about (James) Worthy? That is a disgrace!”

Russo then went over to Stephen A. Smith, who was standing by the monitor, and started smacking the banners, to the dismay of Molly Qerim. Clearly, Russo was getting his point across here that the banners are somehow tainted, as they stand alongside the NBA In-Season Tournament banner in the rafters of Arena.

“You tarnish that with the banner from the inaugural challenge cup? God help me, please.”

God, help us all.

While most chuckle at Mad Dog’s fiery rant, it’s worth noting that he’s likely not alone in how he feels about this. And an entire generation of NBA fans is likely to agree with him.

At the same time, Russo’s outburst raises a valid point. Where do we draw the line between celebrating accomplishments and maintaining the sanctity of tradition? Is the In-Season Tournament worth sharing the spotlight with the Lakers’ illustrious history?

If the Lakers go on to win this year’s NBA championship, it’s all a moot point. But until then, they’re up against the clock and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo.

[Mad Dog Unleashed]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.