Michael Wilbon loves to talk about his famous professional athlete friends, notably Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Irvin “Magic” Johnson. Oh, you didn’t know Magic still went by Irvin? Well, Wilbon is so close that he refuses to call him Magic. Wilbon won’t criticize washed up QB Donovan McNabb either, no matter how many coaches give up on him, because they are good friends as well. Wilbon will sing the praises of the talented and flawed individuals because they gave him access during their playing days and because any relationship they have with him legitimizes the biases that Wilbon flaunts on a daily basis. Of course, while Wilbon is reticent to criticize his A-list birthday guests, he will still gladly take shots at others, including organizations, that have unpleasant dealings with his friends.
Wilbon also likes to use his blatant favoritism to try to appear fresh and contrarian. Take the latest example. Wilbon recently penned a column on ESPN.Com defending the much-ballyhooed “Decision” by All-world egomaniac LeBron James. Why? Well, because it brought interest back to the NBA.
Kick me in the groining hard, and don’t stop until I either pass out from the pain or utter the safe word, ESPN:
“The Decision” was roundly criticized by virtually everybody, but it was exactly — flaws and all — what the NBA needed. People who didn’t have a strong opinion of James either way suddenly had them. Nobody seemed to straddle the line anymore. You liked him or hated him, liked or hated the Heat, and you could not or did not look away.
Oh, really? Michael Griffin in LA, Derrick Rose in Chicago, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s improbable run, and ‘Melo’s trade to the Knicks, all played a role. So did the Lakers’ constant sniping.
As for hatred for LeBron, that didn’t just appear out of thin air one morning at your Scottsdale mansion, Wilbon. Out here in D.C. LeBron hate was real for three seasons when the CAVS sent the Wizards home each postseason meeting. Out in Detroit, hatred for the Cavaliers, and especially LeBron was bubbling over when they came back to defeat the Pistons en route to the NBA finals in 2007. The Boston Celtics, and particularly Paul Pierce have hated LeBron since his AAU days. The Orlando Magic hated LeBron too, for his classless gesture after being defeated in 2008.
One more, and then I really do need to go:
And television isn’t the only place where increased interest in the NBA is reflected. NBA.com reports that page views are up 40 percent over last season, video streams are up 130 percent and NBA mobile downloads are up 75 percent. Traffic to NBA content on ESPN.com has increased dramatically as well, with some categories approaching triple-digit increases. If it’s too soon to say the NBA is in the middle of a full-fledged renaissance, at the very least the league has seen a resurgence, probably even an explosion.
And it’s entirely because of LeBron James.
The Heat drew fan attention because it’s a team of two of the best players in the league, and a third player who is in the top 15. LeBron could have faxed his notice and the interest would have still been huge. Also, there was just a lot of entertaining ball this season; the league has a few new stars and has finally moved beyond just marketing Kobe and LeBron.
Whenever I see Wilbon on PTI I think about what a chubby little shit he must have been growing up in Chicago. I think about how he probably didn’t have many friends, and how in gym class he hung from the chin up bar with his gut tumbling out and his arms aching as everybody laughed him trying to do a single pull up out. Too bad my time machine is busted or I would totally go back in time and pay some children to kick his ass.