Rob Parker and Chris Palmer topped this week's takes.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes! This time around, we’re examining the hottest sports media takes from June 8-14. With the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup celebration, approaching NBA free agency, and the start of the World Cup, the takes were really heating up this week, just in time for summer. So we’re running a special double edition with 10 hot takes instead of five. (And even there, we had to combine some and leave out some, such as Ben Maller’s fight with DeShaun Watson and Stephen A. Smith’s LeBron-Warriors “reporting.”) Let’s get to it. 

10. Keith Olbermann minimizes the Capitals’ championship because…the Golden Knights were an expansion team? The Capitals’ extended Stanley Cup celebrations appeared to touch a nerve for many. ESPN’s Olbermann had a particularly unusual reason to complain about it, tweeting at Nationals’ commentator F.P. Santangelo that the Caps’ celebrations were too much…because they faced the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in the final:

Yes, the Golden Knights are an expansion team, but they’re a great team; they won their division with 109 regular-season points, more than even the Capitals’ 105. And they beat a whole lot of impressive teams to get to the final. But even if they were a fluky team, that doesn’t really minimize Washington’s accomplishment; the Capitals have no control over who they play, and they had to beat a whole lot of other proven, impressive teams to get to the final themselves. There’s no less reason to celebrate based on who they played. Olbermann got criticized by many for this, but one of the best responses came from PFT Commenter:


Rating: 🔥🔥

9. Dan Canova picks the wrong team for his example, calling Morocco’s World Cup participation “a joke”: Jersey Journal sports editor Dan Canova is a proud Italian soccer fan, with his Twitter bio stating “Born into the only team I’m a fan of: @azzuri.” As such, it’s understandable that he isn’t thrilled Italy isn’t in this year’s World Cup (don’t tell UBS, though). And as with many, he saw Saudi Arabia’s dismal showing in a World Cup-opening 5-0 loss Thursday as a chance to complain that they’re in and other teams aren’t thanks to disparities in conference strength and qualifying. That’s not at all uncommon (indeed, even Canova’s tweet was in response to one from Grant Wahl of Fox/SI, who mused about watching Saudi Arabia making it harder to take the U.S. team’s absence). But where many figured Canova went wrong was in citing Morocco (perfect in African qualifying, where they only allowed one goal across eight matches) as an example of a bad team, and the U.S. as an example of a better one:

That didn’t go over well:

Canova eventually admitted that Morocco and the U.S. weren’t great choices to include there, but kept doubling down on his larger “Africa sucks” argument (which certainly isn’t proven by Saudi Arabia, a team that qualified from the Asian confederation). And yes, European and South American qualifying is harder than other regions, and yes, you can argue how many berths go to each area, but Italy’s qualification failures make it pretty unlikely they’d do much in this tournament either. And Canova doesn’t come off looking good here.

Ah, the impeccable arguments of Taylor Swift.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

8. Mark Madden uses “count the rings” argument to bolster Sidney Crosby against Alex Ovechkin, Larry Brooks cites Ovechkin’s “ledger of losing”: Pittsburgh media personality (and former World Championship Wrestling commentator) Madden made headlines this week for a Twitter fight with ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, but he also decided to write a column insisting that Capitals’ captain Alexander Ovechkin can’t possibly be as good as Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby…with a whole lot of that argument hinging on the two players’ respective postseason success.

Some media are again attempting to put Alex Ovechkin in the same class as Sidney Crosby. That’s because Ovechkin is currently very visible as a Stanley Cup champion and playoff MVP after having a great postseason.

Ovechkin knows how to party, too.

But Crosby has two more Cups than Ovechkin and one more playoff MVP. Ovechkin is a better goal-scorer. Crosby is better at everything else, including productive physicality. Ovechkin plays wing. Crosby plays center, a position which carries far more responsibility and significance. Crosby excels at playmaking, defense and working down low. Ovechkin dabbles.

…Crosby’s biggest edge is having won two more Cups.

He has also won two Olympic gold medals and one World Cup of Hockey. Ovechkin has none of the above.

If Crosby’s edge in Cups remains at 3-1, he will almost certainly be thought of as better than Ovechkin in perpetuity.

If Crosby wins a fourth Cup, his superiority will be further cemented.

There’s no particular need to start debating these two players again in general, but the insistence that individual greatness depends on team success is a particularly annoying one that’s seen across sports. The best player in the world in any sport doesn’t always see their team take home the title, and sports with a playoff structure also have an inherently small sample size in the postseason, where all sorts of things can happen; your team can be the best over a long regular season and then sent home in the playoffs, as has happened to Ovechkin’s Capitals multiple times in the past.

And it’s interesting that while many media criticize great players who haven’t won a team trophy, or enough team trophies, they don’t insist that role players with more team trophies are better than stars with less. For example, famed Canadiens’ enforcer John Ferguson Sr. won five Cups, three more than Penguins’ great Mario Lemieux, whose two put him on a level with Oilers’ enforcer Dave Semenko. You don’t see the likes of Madden arguing that Ferguson’s better than Lemieux, do you? Meanwhile, Larry Brooks of The New York Post said that this Cup “doesn’t erase Ovechkin’s ledger of losing“:

This time, the winner of the Patrick Ewing Lifetime Achievement Award for most failed postseason guarantees got it right. He scored difference-making goals, made difference-making plays. This time, too, neither Ovechkin nor the Caps had to go through Henrik Lundqvist, the way they couldn’t in successive seven-game defeats in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

But again: when Alex Rodriguez had his breakthrough postseason in lifting the Yankees to the 2009 World Series title by going 19-for-52 (.365) with six homers and 18 RBIs, that didn’t mean he hadn’t gone 7-for-44 (.159) with one homer and one RBI from 2005 through 2007 in consecutive first-round defeats.

It’s rare when John Tortorella isn’t the worst person in an argument, but Brooksie is making a case for the historical reevaluation of that one.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥 for both.

7. Reggie Miller calls LeBron admitting injury a “weak move”: Reggie, take!

“That was so weak. You come to the press conference with your hand wrapped, are you kidding me? I’m sure it happened, I’m sure he did hit a wall and broke it, but it can’t come from your lips. It’s got to come from a teammate, it’s got to come from a trainer, it’s got to come from a Cavs’ official, but it can’t come from you, LeBron, because it makes you look weak.”

What in the world even is that argument? Admitting to an actual injury is weak, but leaking it through a different source is fine? Huh?

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

6. Michael Wilbon says LeBron should sign with the Wizards…to be like Jeff Bezos: Everyone’s talking about where LeBron James should sign this summer, but ESPN’s Wilbon made a case at The Undefeated for a team next to no one else has suggested; the Washington Wizards. And he did so with a bizarre Jeff Bezos analogy:

Washington, not Los Angeles, is the most powerful city in the world. Washington, not Houston, is where every significant issue relating to sports, from steroids to chronic traumatic encephalopathy to gambling to paying college athletes, has been and will be addressed on Capitol Hill. Washington, not Philly, is where you apply to the National Park Service to convene a rally to call national attention to gun control, women’s rights or Black Lives Matter.

…And Washington, D.C., is where he can all at once pursue his championships, earn his hundreds of millions and make a glorious noise of protest, agitation or advocacy.

…Jeff Bezos, one of the richest people in the world, could have set up camp anywhere but chose the nation’s capital, specifically The Washington Post, and is renovating the largest home in D.C., where his neighbors include the Obamas. Amazon’s HQ2 may not be far behind. Bezos isn’t bringing fascinating people to interact and engage, with all due respect, to Cleveland; he’s bringing them to Washington.

First, James has made social and political impacts wherever he goes, from charity work to political comments, and there’s nothing to suggest that anyone would pay any more or less attention to what he does on those fronts if he played for the Wizards. That’s not going to stop the “shut up and dribble” lines. And we’re pretty sure James can interact with powerful people regardless of who he plays for. But the most bizarre part of this, as Deadspin’s Chris Thompson noted, is that Wilbon admits the Wizards can’t even sign James without a ridiculous amount of maneuvering:

Since the Wizards don’t have the salary cap room to simply recruit and sign LeBron, he’d have to opt in on the final year of his current deal and do so with the stipulation that the Cavaliers trade him to the Wizards. (After a one-year contract, his next deal would convey his Bird rights to the Wizards.) The Wizards would have to give up Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre and at least one first-round pick and perhaps have to manipulate the roster like the club has never done before.

Pardon the realism, but that’s not likely to happen.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

5. Doug Gottlieb trots out the old “Our top athletes don’t play soccer!” argument: Every World Cup, general sports media members show off their soccer ignorance, and a typical way to do that is by claiming that the U.S. could easily dominate soccer if top athletes from other sports played the sport instead. One of the latest examples of that comes from Fox Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb:

First, there’s no proof that any of those athletes would be world-class soccer players, even if they started at an early age. Some natural athleticism can translate from sport to sport, but every sport requires its own set of skills, and excelling in one doesn’t necessarily make you dominant in another. (Consider the professional baseball career of Michael Jordan.) While some athletes have been able to cross over from one sport to another, many, many more have not. And while training in a sport for years and years certainly can help, training alone doesn’t necessarily produce greatness either; for all the top athletes who talk about how hard they’ve worked, there are plenty who have worked just as hard without ever making it to the pros.

Even if Austin, Hill and Westbrook had all played soccer instead of football or basketball, there’s no indication they’d be dominant. And suggesting they would be really shows ignorance of just how good many of those who have chosen soccer are, and is also a pretty significant insult to the top soccer players the U.S. does have. Everyone currently on the U.S. national team is unquestionably better at soccer than Austin, Hill or Westbrook right now, and many of them might still be better at soccer than those others even if the others had trained in soccer growing up. And this is also a huge insult to the rest of the world’s soccer players, many of whom might be better at their own craft than the likes of Austin, Hill and Westbrook are at the sports they do specialize in, to say nothing of soccer. It’s an American-centric “Well, we’re not even trying, and our top guys could kick your top guys’ butts” take, without anything to support it.

Beyond that, passion for a sport is important, and it’s often a key part of what gets athletes to put in the necessary work to become great. Even if Gottlieb had the power to force more top athletic prospects into soccer (which, fortunately, he doesn’t), some of those talents might give up on the game if it didn’t appeal to them, or at least not put in the extra work necessary to get to the top level. Winning the World Cup is not as simple as “have everyone with athletic potential forced into soccer,” and it should be noted that that doesn’t even happen in many of the world’s top soccer countries; Brazil, Spain, Germany and more all produce star athletes in other sports, too, from volleyball to tennis to Olympic sports. The answer to World Cup success isn’t just “everyone must play soccer.”

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

4. Damien Cox criticizes the Capitals’ celebrations in relation to Nadal’s: Sportsnet’s Cox is known for a lot of obnoxious behavior, including the infamous “gotta ask the question,” and he continued that with this celebration take:

Most of the world had fun with the Caps’ joyous celebration. Cox clearly did not. And his own tweet defeats the point; why would you celebrate winning your 11th title as intensely as the first title in franchise history?

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

3. Pete Prisco doesn’t like the video of the kid consoling his friend and opponent: Speaking of grumpy, contrarian takes, here’s Pete Prisco! The world loved the story and video of the Minnesota high school baseball player who struck out his friend to win a game, then consoled him before going to celebrate. Prisco…did not.

A great response to this, not specifically at Prisco but at those who felt the need to dump on this kid, came from former MLB player Michael Young:

You tell ’em, Mike.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

2. Skip Bayless claims LeBron’s hand injury was “the excuse he needed”: Leave it to Bayless to have the world’s hottest LeBron take. Bayless claimed that the whole hand injury was so James would evade blame for the Cavs’ loss:

That’s some good conspiracy theorying, Skippy. Mike Golic Jr. would be proud.

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

1. Rob Parker and Chris Palmer argue for Kyrie Irving and Lonzo Ball over LeBron James: It’s pretty well-established at this point that LeBron is one of the NBA’s absolute best players, which is why everyone is trying to court him in free agency. But that hasn’t stopped contrarian takes arguing for others who most wouldn’t put close to his level. First, FS1’s Rob Parker:

The only people on this planet (flat or not) who would put those two players even in the same class are Parker and Irving’s own family. And yet, that one’s closer than what we saw from Chris Palmer, a Spectrum Sports (Lakers’ local broadcast) figure arguing he’d rather have Lonzo Ball:

It sounds like you’re not actually LeBron’s biggest booster, Chris. Maybe Lonzo’s biggest booster? Well, a certain other figure comes to mind there, and that led to this incredible response:

Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 for both.

Hot Take Standings:

Jason Whitlock – Hall of Fame
Stephen A. Smith – 206
Skip Bayless – 175
Phil Mushnick – 137
Colin Cowherd – 62
Rob Parker – 38
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Doug Gottlieb – 28
Albert Breer – 23
Ray Lewis – 21
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Britt McHenry – 15
Don Cherry – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
Dan Shaughnessy – 13
Chris Broussard – 13
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Ben Maller – 12
Tony Massarotti – 11
Jason McIntyre – 11
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Keith Olbermann – 11
Darren Rovell – 10
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Ross Tucker – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Steve Simmons – 8
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Andy Benoit – 7
Cris Carter – 7
Pat Forde – 7
Danny Kanell – 7
Pat Leonard – 6
Mike Francesa – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Pete Prisco – 5
Damien Cox – 5
Bill Simons – 5
Christine Flowers – 5
Jason Lieser – 5
John Steigerwald – 5
Josh Peter – 5
Alexi Lalas  – 5
Greg Gabriel  – 5
John Moody  – 5
Marni Soupcoff – 5
Ryan Rishaug – 5
Kurtis Larson  – 5
Rod Watson  – 5
Dan Wolken – 5
Chuck Modiano – 5
Joel Klatt – 5
Steve Buffery – 5
Joe Morgan – 5
Michael Felger – 5
Howard Eskin – 5
Nancy Armour – 5
Richard Justice – 5
John Middlekauff – 5
Ameer Hasan Loggins – 5
Jesse Watters – 5
John McGrath – 5
Mike Sielski – 5
Gordon Monson – 5
Scott Fowler – 5
Mike Bianchi – 5
Terry Frei – 5
David Jones – 5
Sabrina Parr – 5
Abbey Mastracco – 5
Terry Cushman – 5
Rob Rossi – 5
Rick Bozich – 5
Michael O’Doherty – 5
Simon Briggs – 5
Dan Wetzel – 5
Mike Parry – 5
Bob Ryan – 5
Robert Reed – 5
Pete Dougherty – 5
Dan Le Batard – 5
Marcus Hayes – 5
Kyle Turley – 5
Mike Ditka – 5
Erril Laborde – 5
Lowell Cohn – 5
Rosie DiManno – 5
Mark Kiszla – 4
Greg Witter – 4
Myron Medcalf  – 4
Bill Polian – 4
MJ Franklin – 4
Alex Reimer – 4
Joan Vennochi – 4
Graham Couch – 4
Matt Yglesias – 4
Bill Livingston – 4
Michael Irvin – 4
Shawn Windsor – 4
Brock Huard – 4
Byron Tau – 4
Maggie Gray – 4
Michael Powell – 4
Mark Spector – 4
Chad Forbes – 4
Gary Myers – 4
Mark Schlereth – 4
Andy Gray – 4
David Fleming – 4
The Sporting News – 4
Jeff Pearlman – 4
Tony Grossi – 4
FanSided – 4
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
Michael Wilbon – 3
Reggie Miller – 3
Mark Madden – 3
Larry Brooks – 3
Dan Canova – 3
Steve Rosenbloom – 3
Stephen Jackson – 3
Mike Sando – 3
Walt Borla – 3
Chris Russo  – 3
Nick Cafardo – 3
Ice Cube – 3
Cathal Kelly – 3
Justin Peters – 3
Elise Finch – 3
Kevin Skiver  – 3
David Bahnsen – 3
Harold Reynolds – 3
Kevin Reynolds – 3
Mike Sheahan – 3
Bob Ford – 3
Steve Greenberg – 3
Matt Burke – 3
Malcolm Gladwell – 3
Mike Milbury – 3
Mac Engel – 3
Nick Kypreos – 3
Jason Smith – 3
Caron Butler – 3
Don Brennan – 3
Robert Tychkowski – 3
Mike Johnston – 3
Jeff Mans – 3
Joe Browne – 3
Mike Harrington – 3
Greg Mitchell – 3
Ron Cook – 2
Brian Kenny – 2
Barrett Sallee – 2
Craig Calcaterra – 2
Max Kellerman – 2
Gareth Wheeler – 2
John Cornyn – 2
Tony Dungy – 2
Bruce Jenkins – 2
Chris Wesseling – 2
Seth Greenberg – 2
Doug Smith – 2
Newsweek – 2
Teddy Cutler – 2
Will Cain – 2
Bill Cowher – 2
Paul Finebaum – 2
Charley Casserly – 2
Amin Elhassan – 2
Jim Henneman – 2
Mitch Lawrence – 2
Nick Wright – 2
Domonique Foxworth – 2
Gary Parrish – 2
Michael Farber – 2
Andy Furman – 2
Donovan McNabb – 2
Seth Davis – 2
Jon Heyman – 2
Jason La Canfora – 2
Booger McFarland – 2
Joe Schad – 2
Cork Gaines – 2

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week for more This Week In Hot Takes. As always, you can send submissions to me via e-mail or on Twitter.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.