Don’t Blame ESPN For Hyping Kobe-Lebron

May 28, 2009 |

It seems like everyone has been hyping the possible Lebron vs. Kobe NBA Finals matchup since February, right? Well, judging by how the conference finals have been playing out, it might not happen. The Orlando Magic lead Cleveland in their best of seven series 3-1, and the Denver Nuggets are giving the Los Angeles Lakers a run for their money. Not only might Lebron not get to the finals, but Kobe & Company might miss out, too.

I’ve been listening to a lot of the talking heads on television. I’ve been listening to various radio talk shows throughout the country (thanks to the internet). It seems like the new thing to do is to bash ESPN for overhyping Kobe vs. Lebron and ignoring the other teams still in the playoffs.

Now, I’ll admit that ESPN has done their fair share of hype. In fact, no entity in sports does a better job of promoting something than The Worldwide Leader. However, to rip ESPN for this is just a tad off base.

Sure, ESPN is hyping Lebron vs. Kobe, but isn’t that what they are supposed to do? They are, after all, one of the NBA’s television partners. They are airing the Western Conference Finals, and their production of the NBA Finals will air on ABC. To not promote it would be stupid. I know, it seems harsh, but it’s really simple. You have a product, and you want to promote it. To not acknowledge that a Kobe-Lebron matchup was possible would be crazy. You don’t just put that matchup on the air and hope people somehow find it.

Not once have I heard anyone say anything about the way other media outlets have promoted a possible Kobe-Lebron matchup. Surely, ESPN isn’t the only entity that is talking about it, right?

Of course they aren’t. There are plenty of websites that have been talking about this possible showdown, and they’ve been talking about it for months. FOX, CBS, Fanhouse – all of the major websites – have had Kobe-Lebron on the brain for months.

Newspapers have had columnists writing about the matchup for a long time, too – even if their cities or teams aren’t involved in the playoffs. Why? Because these two superstars are (arguably) the two best players in the league. They are (arguably) the two most popular players in the league. They aren’t just basketball players, either. They have crossed over into the mainstream, thanks to advertising campaigns like the one that Nike has been putting out there lately (those puppet commercials are hilarious).

The radio talk shows have been talking Kobe-Lebron for a while, too. Sure, listeners like to hear about their local teams, but they also want to know about teams and players who transcend the games they play. Kobe and Lebron certainly do that, just like Tiger Woods does.

I’m not the biggest ESPN fan in the world. I think Sportscenter has gotten so far away from what made it a great show. I’ve talked about this on the radio many times in the past. ESPN used to go after the hard core sports nut. That was back in the days of Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann. Now, ESPN is more like Entertainment Tonight. They are going for the casual sports fan now more than they ever have before. While it might be the smart thing to do because they want to attract the biggest possible audience, the hard core fans – like me – have been turned off to a degree.

ESPN has done other things that I consider wrong as well. It doesn’t happen nearly as much as it used to, but The Worldwide Leader used to be the king of taking a breaking news story and claiming it as their own, when someone else – usually a local outlet – actually had the story first.

Many people complain that ESPN has shown too much bias to the teams in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. To a degree, that’s true. But, they are based on the East Coast, and most of the best teams and athletes just happen to be as well. ESPN has recently started paying attention (maybe too much) to other parts of the country – emanating a nightly Sportscenter from Los Angeles and launching a Chicago only website. They might not be paying attention to the developing baseball stories in Milwaukee, Kansas City, or Texas, but they are trying to be a little less biased towards the coasts.

There are a lot of negative things fans and talking heads can say about ESPN. But promoting a possible Kobe-Lebron matchup in the upcoming finals isn’t the worst thing they could have done.

Instead of ripping on ESPN (which is a no-win situation), maybe more of me media brothers should look in the mirror and ask themselves whether they were a part of the hype or not.

If they were (and most of them have been), then they need to stop ripping on someone else for doing the same thing.

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