Fox Sports contrarian Skip Bayless years ago staked out his corner as the world’s foremost LeBron James hater. What has followed is a Greek tragedy in which an overly proud man refuses to admit his folly even in the face of certain doom. In our modern times that doom manifests in the form of looking like a giant putz on television and online.
At this point, the shtick is less entertaining than it is troublesome. I have earnest concerns that Bayless is trapped in some sort of alternate dimension and desperately wants to escape. His anti-James screeds read like calls for help.
How else could a person interpret this backhanded compliment he delivered after his foil banked in the winning shot — an absurd floater — against the Toronto Raptors in Game 3?
This is Fox’s most expensive sports expert expressing doubt that the best basketball player in the world was aiming for the glass. The video evidence could not be more conclusive. Of course he was. If Bayless can’t glean such a simple fact, how can the rest of his basketball analysis be trusted?
This probably isn’t rock-bottom for Bayless when it comes to absurd James criticism. But it’s clear he’s not only scraping the bottom of the barrel, he’s also been forced to use some steel wool to loosen up some gunk from the bottom. That’s what happens when a player is averaging 34.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 8.8 assists in the playoffs. That’s what happens when a player shoots 57 percent and hits buzzer-beaters multiple times. That’s what happens when a player puts his team on his back and carries them so obviously it spawns a Saturday Night Live sketch.
Bayless’ streak of refusing to acknowledge James’ greatness is as impressive, if not more, than the Cavaliers star reaching seven straight NBA Finals. Think about the steadfast commitment to stubbornness Bayless must bring to work each and every day.
It must be exhausting, even if he truly believes it — a premise I’m not as convinced of. And I truly hope his criticisms are authentic. Otherwise he’d be destined to live an existence full of compromise. What is it to gain the world if it means losing one’s self? Surely there’d be moments when he looked in the mirror and wondered if such a charade is worth it.
Whether the James obsessesion is a bit or an honestly held position is irrelevant in the end. Either way, the end work product is the same and only looks more disconnected with reality by the day.
Maybe Bayless has shackled himself with a take that no one wants to give him the key to escape. He’s in a box now, and James keeps filling more and more water into it. The contrarian has built his own torture chamber and that’s where he lives now. His refusal to admit a mistake ensures he’ll live there for a long time, and perhaps forever.