Reimer: NBA coaches acting like petulant children in war against ESPN over LaVar Ball coverage

Alex Reimer
January 10, 2018 - 10:56 am

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

NBA coaches Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy often condemn President Donald Trump for his thin-skinned temperament. But their criticisms ring hollow in the wake of their petulant attacks against ESPN for the network’s overwhelming coverage of LaVar Ball. 

Kerr, who regularly receives Twitter applause for his soliloquies about the news media’s penchant for sensationalism, strangely connected ESPN’s recent layoffs to its obsession with Ball. 

“I was thinking about ESPN and they laid off, I don’t know 100 people?,” Kerr said earlier this week, via SB Nation. “Somewhere, I guess in Lithuania, LaVar Ball is laughing. People are eating out his hands for no apparent reason. Other than he’s become like the Kardashian of the NBA or something and that sells. That’s true in politics and entertainment and now sports. It doesn’t matter if there’s any substance involved with an issue. It’s just ‘Can we make it really interesting.’ For no apparent reason. There’s nothing interesting about that story.”

Kerr is referring to an interview ESPN reporter Jeff Goodman conducted with Ball Sunday, in which the patriarch of Big Baller Brand claimed Lakers coach Luke Walton no longer holds the respect of his locker room. Goodman is currently positioned in Lithuania, where LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball are playing.

Unsurprisingly, LaVar Ball’s antics have overshadowed Lonzo Ball’s rookie season with the Lakers. The Lakers are reportedly worried about the impact LaVar Ball is having on his eldest boy. 

While Kerr has previously taken exception to ESPN’s fixation with all things Big Baller Brand, he is especially perturbed about LaVar’s attacks on Walton. And Kerr isn’t alone. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the president of the NBA's Coaches Association, said ESPN should support coaches because of its partnership with the league. If Trump made a comment like that, it’s easy to imagine Van Gundy or Gregg Popovich ranting and raving about the sanctity of a free press. Instead, Van Gundy took Carlisle’s comments one step further, threatening to cease cooperation with the WorldWide Leader.

"I'm not meeting with their announcing crew before the game, I'm not doing the in-game interview," he said, per the New York Daily News. "I'm not going to participate in the thing.”

How childish. 

ESPN’s preoccupation with LaVar Ball, much like its fascination with Tim Tebow, is a bit nauseating.  There’s an entire subsection devoted to the Ball family on ESPN’s website. But there’s a reason why ESPN is dedicating so many resources to covering Ball’s every move: people care. Multibillion-dollar media organizations are privy to scores of analytics that measure audience engagement. If Ball didn’t garner people’s attention, he wouldn’t receive coverage. 

As a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, ESPN is responsible for generating revenue. The stories that get read and segments that attract eyeballs don’t always contain the most news value. That’s an unfortunate reality in the for-profit news industry. 

Then again, ESPN is an entertainment network that covers sports. It’s not like LaVar Ball is taking space away from legislative affairs or international conflicts. Most sports stories are superfluous.

NBA coaches take exception to LaVar Ball coverage, because he’s lambasted one of them. This is a personal vendetta. It has little to do with maintaining the sanctity of the sports press. 

Kerr, Van Gundy and Carlisle may sound like their taking a principled stand. But in reality, they’re being vindictive babies. 

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