The hottest takes for Feb. 23-March 2.

Welcome to another edition of This Week In Hot Takes! This time around, we’re looking at the hottest sports media takes from Feb. 23-March 1.

5. Ray Lewis gives Ezekiel Elliott advice on staying out of trouble:

Lewis’ lecture to Elliott here includes three separate references to God and Bible study, plus a whole lot of commentary on who Elliott should hang out with. “If he doesn’t create a foundation outside of his normal life, this decision will haunt him. …He has to get away from everybody who will become yes men.” None of that’s necessarily wrong, but the discussion of Elliott’s life feels like a bit much given how far outside of it Lewis is, and especially given his own well-documented off-field issues. Yes, Elliott has been accused of domestic violence, and earned a suspension from the NFL as a result, and that’s nothing to look past. But the source of the advice here is a bit suspect, as, unlike Lewis, Elliott hasn’t been charged with murder and pled guilty to obstruction of justice. Which further reinforces the absurdity of how Lewis regularly presents himself as this role model, here to tell NFL players how to behave. Given his love for biblical references, perhaps he should be more concerned about the plank in his own eye.

Rating: ??

4. Colin Cowherd says Anthony Davis has “to have won a single playoff game” to be MVP:

This is a bad argument every time it comes up, and it illustrates the issues in separating player performance from team performance. Davis has been great for most of his NBA career so far, but his team hasn’t. He’s one-fifth of the lineup on the court at any given point and one-twelfth of the active roster, so why is the Pelicans’ failure to win a playoff game during his career all on him? Now, there’s maybe debate to be had about if Davis is the NBA MVP this year, but bold declarations of qualifications like this that aren’t entirely in a player’s control aren’t the way to do that.

That becomes clear if you consider other hypotheticals possible under this statement; Davis is averaging 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game this year, and is in the MVP discussion according to the Best online sportsbooks (although he posted similar totals last season without getting many MVP votes) but not a clear-cut winner, however according to Cowherd’s logic, he could average 200/200/200 and not be MVP until his team wins a playoff game. Which is something that’s impossible to do during a regular season, so this is backdating qualifications for the excellence of any given season, what’s supposedly being considered with the MVP award, to something that happened the previous year. That’s a lousy case to make. If Cowherd wants to argue against Davis’ candidacy, fine, but citing the need to have previously won a playoff game as a MVP qualification is ridiculous.

Rating: ???

3. JT The Brick argues NCAA players shouldn’t get paid because they’ll “drink it and smoke it”:

This discussion between JT The Brick and co-host Tomm Looney’s actually pretty interesting overall, with Looney making some solid points about why NCAA players should be paid (the example of actors, extras, and everyone else on TV being paid is an interesting one) and JT trying to shoot him down by arguing that only a few players are good enough to go professional afterwards. Looney notes that the likes of Baskin Robbins employees get paid too, not just franchise owners, and that’s also a valid point; not all athletes are driving massive revenues alone, but they are still providing TV programming. TV contracts are bringing in massive amounts of revenue for schools, and there are problems with insisting that none of that should go to the athletes. JT’s “you’re getting a free education, it’s incredible” response also isn’t great, as while a university education can be expensive for non-athletes and can be valuable for some athletes, it’s not important for every job, and top athletes are often steered away from difficult classes and subjects towards less-useful ones that won’t conflict with their sports duties.

But the real hot take comes at the end of this conversation, where Looney says that JT’s somewhat on his side, and JT responds “I only want them to get paid a little. $250 to $500 a month, or they’ll drink it and smoke it.” I mean, I guess that’s nice that he wants athletes to be paid a bit (although really, that’s possibly even less than the cost-of-attendance stipends they already receive), but suggesting that athletes shouldn’t be paid because they’ll misuse the money is rather problematic. To go back to the Baskin Robbins example, should we just walk in and take ice cream without paying because we decide the high-school student working the cash register would just misuse any paycheck they get? Not all athletes are going to waste money they get, and even if they did use money in ways sports radio hosts don’t approve of, that’s not really a good argument for not paying them.

Rating: ???

2. Dan Dakich calls Marvin Bagley III selfish, says Duke was better without him: Bagley has been a key component for the Blue Devils and one of their best players when healthy, averaging 20.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per game in 26 games this season. But Dakich, in his role as color commentator on Monday night’s Duke-Virginia Tech game, decided to go on a rant about Bagley and how he wasn’t helping the team:

“I know this is blasphemy, but Bagley is all about Bagley. I mean, honest to goodness, I can see in 18 minutes why Duke was able to go on a run when he was hurt. You hate to say that about a kid, but he is about himself. He gets the ball, it doesn’t come out. He doesn’t play defense. He’s a terrific talent, don’t get me wrong. But you can see real clear, real fast, and I’ll take all the shots that people want to give me, but you can see he is about him.”

Those are awfully strong criticisms for an analyst, and Bagley deservedly took exception to them later. And as with many hot takes, there’s a way this could have maybe been a reasonable opinion; Dakich could have talked about Bagley’s high usage rate and possible need to improve his passing and defense, and that would have been reasonable commentary. But blasting him for being “about himself” and suggesting that Duke’s better off without him is pretty silly.

Rating: ????

1. Michael DeCourcy argues LeBron’s “baseless charge that the NCAA is corrupt is not worthy of a superstar”: LeBron James came out with some critical comments about the NCAA this week, but hardly anything that hasn’t been said or written many times before. Sporting News columnist Michael DeCourcy decided to absolutely go off on James over those, though, and most problematically, argued that James can’t comment on the NCAA because he didn’t personally play in college:

“Obviously, I’ve never been a part of it, so I don’t know all the ins and outs about it,” James said, and if only he’d quit there. “But kids getting paid is nothing new under the sun. You’ve all seen ‘Blue Chips.’ It’s a real movie, seriously … The NCAA is corrupt. We know that. Sorry. It’s going to make headlines, but it’s corrupt.”

Leaving aside James’ apparently terrible taste in cinema, his casual allegation that the NCAA is a corrupt organization is among the most baseless public proclamations we’ve encountered in sports.

The NCAA always has served as a convenient target for anything anyone might find objectionable about the nature and practice of college athletics at the highest level. That has led to any number of inaccurate and unfair assessments of the work being done by the men and women who populate its Indianapolis headquarters.

To assert corruption, however, suggests a level of dishonesty and malfeasance that is not supportable by any information available to, or uncovered by, people who’ve observed college athletics closely for decades. Unlike the international Olympic Committee or FIFA, the world soccer governing body, there has not been a major scandal in the offices of the NCAA. 

…To blast the NCAA as “corrupt”, however, travels well beyond the bounds of James’ meager experience with the organization.

He once sat courtside at a Kentucky game. He attended the Davidson-Kansas regional final in 2008. He previously put his name on a Nike-sponsored camp for high school prospects that he infrequently visited because it was visited by college coaches for scouting purposes and had to be certified by the NCAA.

Oh, and as some of my Twitter audience pointed out, he has teammates who played under the NCAA banner.

My best friend has been a dentist for three decades. And I have teeth. Does that make me an expert on the operations of the American Dental Association?

First, it’s weird that DeCourcy takes James’ comments as a particular shot at the specific employees who work at NCAA headquarters rather than at the overall setup of college basketball, which would seem to be a more reasonable conclusion given how James is making these comments in reference to the FBI probe of college coaches allegedly arranging payments to recruits and intermediaries. But even if we insist that James’ comments are narrowly defined to NCAA headquarters, there’s maybe an argument to be made there; while NCAA officials haven’t been specifically implicated in anything yet, it wasn’t an NCAA investigation that uncovered any of these payments, but rather a FBI one.

Some certainly might argue that the NCAA hasn’t taken pay-to-play allegations all that seriously in many cases, and while that’s maybe about their limited investigative resources and lack of subpoena power, the organization certainly could invest more in investigations and hand down harsher penalties if it wanted to. The organization is also certainly responsible for the policies that prohibit athletes from receiving aboveboard compensation for their work or even taking advantage of their likeness for marketing deals, which is part of what drives off-the-books payments. So even if we do insist that James is referring to NCAA leadership here, he might have a case.

What about “corrupt,” the word DeCourcy seems to take so much issue with? Well, the first two definitions of “corruption” from Merriam-Webster are “a. dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers) depravity” and “b inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (such as bribery) – the corruption of government officials.” Bribery, dishonesty and illegal behavior certainly has been involved in many of these cases of off-the-books payments for players, and even if we’re saying the NCAA headquarters had no knowledge of this (maybe) and no ability to stop it (doubtful), there’s certainly some potential dishonesty in both pretending they can’t do anything about off-the-books payments and insisting that players can’t be paid, while coaches and athletic directors continue to make higher and higher salaries thanks to the incredible TV windfalls the sport receives.

DeCourcy’s take really gets weird when it comes to comparing James’ opinion to his own opinions on the American Dental Association, though. Yes, James didn’t play in college, but the idea that his only connection to the NCAA is because teammates played there is insane. James is fully immersed in the basketball world and has all sorts of connections at all sorts of levels. He’s quite probably more connected to the NCAA than many hot-take columnists, and knows what he’s talking about. DeCourcy insists that he’s not telling James to “Shut up and dribble” the way Laura Ingraham did, but he essentially is, reserving the right to opine on the NCAA and its corruption or lack thereof to the columnists who cover it instead of a man fully involved in the basketball world. (Oh, hey, and is DeCourcy going to individually yell at the many writers who have called the NCAA corrupt? At Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy? Or just at LeBron?) That, sir, is a hot take.

Rating: ?????

Notable absences: Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless, Phil Mushnick.

Hot Take Standings:

Stephen A. Smith – 177
Skip Bayless – 136
Phil Mushnick – 112
Colin Cowherd – 49
Shannon Sharpe – 35
Rob Parker – 29
Doug Gottlieb – 22
JT The Brick – 20
Charles Barkley – 19
Ray Lewis – 16
Albert Breer – 16
Don Cherry – 15
Bill Plaschke – 14
Dan Dakich – 13
Rick Morrissey – 13
Michael DeCourcy – 11
Bob Brookover – 10
Jeremy Roenick – 10
Berry Tramel – 10
Kristine Leahy – 10
Chris Broussard – 10
Ross Tucker – 9
Keith Olbermann – 9
Ryen Russillo – 9
Garth Crooks – 9
C.J. Nitkowski – 9
Frank Isola – 8
Michael Rapaport – 8
Tony Massarotti – 8
Jason McIntyre – 8
Bart Hubbuch – 8
Pat Forde – 7
Danny Kanell – 7
Dan Shaughnessy – 6
Pat Leonard – 6
Mike Francesa – 6
Luke Kerr-Dineen – 6
Terry Bradshaw – 6
Greg A. Bedard – 6
Alexi Lalas  – 5
Greg Gabriel  – 5
Steve Simmons – 5
John Moody  – 5
Marni Soupcoff – 5
Ryan Rishaug – 5
Kurtis Larson  – 5
Rod Watson  – 5
Dan Wolken – 5
Britt McHenry – 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
Bill Polian – 4
MJ Franklin – 4
Alex Reimer – 4
Joan Vennochi – 4
Graham Couch – 4
Matt Yglesias – 4
Andy Benoit – 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
Cris Carter – 4
Kirk Herbstreit – 4
Tony Kornheiser – 4
Mike Felger – 4
USA Today op-eds – 4
Nathan Ruiz – 4
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
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.