Listen now (82 min) | NBA MVP fight, Perkins vs. Redick, Michael Jordan vs. LeBron
Super thrilled to hear my Oscars MVP take getting some run on HOS, made my day.
Here's the thing with Nick Wright...he told us who he was last time on the pod, he sees himself as a defense lawyer or a debate champion. I'm not from NYC, but my ears perked up when he tried to sneak by the "New York has less crime than 35 years ago" take. Wow what an oddly specific data point! I'm sure there's no reason he chose that number...
So you have this dude on, and as always he seems reasonable and normal and then you guys get right to the end and he starts telling whoppers. Why exactly would you concede that LeBron was better than Jordan at 18-22? Michael Jordan was winning NCAA Championships and Olympic Gold Medals! But he tricks you into conceding this.
LeBron has proven he can win with different players and coaches? Ummm...hasn't he mostly proved the opposite? Hasn't he left a trail of destruction everywhere he left? Doesn't Michael Jordan's empowering of Phil Jackson and coexisting with Dean Smith and Bobby Knight at least make this a moot poot? But he gets the listener to concede this.
And this is the brilliance of Nick Wright...even if this were true, it's not a foundational part of the conversation. Nick knows that if he speaks really fast and goes on long runs making subjective statements about things that aren't relevant, you'll be arguing about whether Mark Furman is racist and not the other thing.
Bill Russell won even more IS NOT AN ARGUMENT FOR LEBRON JAMES IT'S AN ARGUMENT FOR BILL RUSSELL. But we're on to the next point and the next point and arguing HOF teammates and era and all this tedious opinion based stuff.
Everyone who experienced the Jordan years can spit out the relevant argument ending details of his Paul Bunyan career, so they don't really need to get in the weeds about how he has the #1 Usage of all time but the 39th TOV%, or how as of January he had 300-some more offensive rebounds than LeBron in 300 less games, or that he's the RAPTOR GOAT before RAPTOR was a thing.
But that's too many stats, this is a Nick Wright conversation after all. On those terms, it is undeniable that every non-big since Jordan has been compared to Jordan and not really anyone else. Vince Carter, Stackhouse, Grant Hill, Penny, Wade, Kobe and LeBron. He has been the standard. Does anyone really think that the next big thing will be compared to LeBron and not Jordan? Why is that?
Really enjoyed the debate. Will come back to the media stuff in another response.
No doubt Nick Wright is a skilled rhetoricist, and makes some interesting contrary takes - his career is clearly based on contrarianism, and I have no problem with that. Also not suggesting he is disingenuous.
But oh lordy did he use a lot of bait and switch, change the goalposts, etc in the MJ vs LBJ thing. There is no-one stopping us discussing MJ in the 80s - we aren't confined "to discussing MJ's 6 championship years" - just as we can't ignore LBJ's first 8 years as he failed time and again to come through when it mattered, and when he reached one Finals and was EMBARRASSED by a Tony Parker-led Spurs. Yes, TP was MVP in a 4-0 sweep over LBJ. Nick failed to mention that, and LBJ's repeated failures from 2009-11, and so on. But I'm fine with that as long as you acknowledge those are LBJ's formative stages, just as the '80s were MJ's, because fairness demands we acknowledge them in both directions.
But MJ's WIzard years? Come on. Does not belong in the debate in any sense. They were an embarrassing abberation, an expression of MJ's competitive vanity and ego and bore no resemblance to his actual core career. Come on Nick.
And btw, MJ was not just "about his scoring" - the guy was an All Defensive Teamer, put up huge rebound totals when the team needed it, did EVERYTHING ON THE COURT. You'd know that if you lived through the era and watched him play. He was an absolute monster in every facet of the game. So don't give me that revisionist bullshit.
PS Not a Bulls fan. Spurs fan. I had to watch DRob play his arse off with a substandard team year after year and get stomped by Hakeem - who I also respect massively - during his one chance to actually get to the Finals (without Timmy). But I believe in calling things truthfully, and MJ was THE DOMINANT PLAYER in an era full of them.
Ethan- could you please talk about the Wiggins situation? It is beyond ridiculous how sportwriters are avoiding talking about a situation that likely has cost the warriors at least five games.
It also is a prime example that it is NEVER worth it to attempt to censor a story. The story will always get out and it will be 10 times worse having twitter and reddit speculate rather than just coming out with it.
The other thing that is driving me crazy is that wiseman was cast out because it was so fucking important to utilize curry’s championship window, but then they make excuses for Wiggins to be away from the team for complete nonsense. Again, a last championship run is likely being fumbled away because wiggins left the team- this is THE story and no one will talk about it.
Regarding the news media and truth/bias/agenda/propaganda, I was very interested to hear Ethan comment with his economist hat on and say he didn't like the incentives when media is publically owned. What about the incentives when it is owned by billionaires and shareholders?
When news media is for profit - note I'm specifically referring to NEWS media, not entertainment media - the news is twisted into one of two things:
1. maximising clicks/eyeballs - so, pressing the fear/outrage button in people's heads as much as possible, then finishing the bulletin with a cutesy story to divert them from all the fear manipulation you just put them through;
2. the personal agenda of the billionaire in charge - see Fox and Rupert's Ayn Randian crusade against taxes, government, climate action, action on rampant and growing inequality, etc.
Rather than being about truth, news becomes driven by either profit or propaganda (or both), and everyone loses. Power is not held to account, and everything is framed through lens 1. or lens 2.
Like health, justice and social security, news media is not a sector that should ever be run for profit. Truth should be the primary driver, not money or personal agenda.
My experience of publically owned media is pretty positive. In Australia the ABC (our equivalent of the BBC) is funded by the federal govt but independent with its own board. Unfortunately that board is appointed by the government of the day, but that has not prevented the ABC from being critical of the government. Usually the board seems to do its job with the public interest in mind, even when the government of the day strangles its funding. We also have the part publically funded Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), which was set up to broadcast to minority communities, and is also nt afraid to criticise the government of the day. In contrast, the modern BBC has become very beholden to the Tories.
There is no perfect solution, but I think a publically funded, independent network is the best model we have. It's far better than the profit or billionaire controlled model.
I hope Jokic wins a championship solely to shut Nick Wright the hell up. I don’t watch his show or follow him on any platform yet still come across him way too much.
I can relate to Nick’s challenges around having a very attractive spouse and people wondering why she married me.
Two big things when it comes to crime.
1. Yes, crime is down in big cities compared to 30-20 years ago, and slightly up compared to five years ago. But public disorder is way, way up. I know plenty of women who live in the DC suburbs (where I live) who tell me this when they go into DC. Way too many CVS stores in cities like DC have basic products locked up.
2. I think it helps to take the long view on crime, but we can't discount that a large number Boomers remember what life was like before crime starting spiking in the late 60's and how that trajectory lasted until the mid-90s'.
Nick Wright bemoans the loss of local news media but local news media covered crime, especially violent crime, in a pretty aggressive and sensationalistic manner when I was a kid in the 90s!
Nick Wright is a LeBron Homer! But, I found him incredibly insightful and wise in his defense of Kendrick Perkins. Like, WTF JJ?! It's true he stepped on Perk's neck. And why?!? JJ does act a bit too smug for "First Take". That show is for sound-bites. I get there is money in it. But, seriously JJ, stick to Podcasts! There you at least give people a fair opportunity to articulate all their thoughts, not pick on a guy for expressing what a lot of people do think, no matter how clumsy Perk came off expressing it. It was a bad look for the show on the whole. Guess the Duke douchery needs to come out every now and then, huh JJ?
Ethan, please make Nick one of your more regular guests. He's great!
I jumped out of bed with glee when I heard your Westbrook MVP take. I’ve always hated that MVP. Jokic is my favorite player but it will never sit right with me that a player on a 6th seed won MVP.
Unrelated, Strauss, you got scooped:
Nick, albeit a talented take artist, spends way more time picking apart arguments about Jordan than Jordan himself. His go-to is “1 playoff win without Pippen.” What he neglects to mention is pippen averaged 7 ppg as a rookie in the same year jordan averaged 35, won mvp, scoring title, dpoy, all star mvp, and dunk contest in the first year the bulls made round 2, after jordan averaged 45 in round 1. But I guess without pippen none of that would’ve been possible
I think Nick has been insufferable on every other format I’ve heard him on including Colin but your last pod with him made me have a new respect for him. Great pod this go round, I’m with you on Jordan and that end result to me is ineluctable. There’s something about the mystique and mythos of Mike which was emblematic of that pre social media era juxtaposed to Lebron who has just become a vile man. Something horrifying happened on the grounds of his school and as much as he flaps that beak about every triviality and soup of the day social Justice outlier, the one subject he wasn’t poppin off about was the loss of life in his school parking lot. Add in Mike’s closer instinct and classic commercials and one is simply an American hero and historical monument, the other is just an odious fraud everywhere but the court. Nick is a bit dogmatic for my liking but an all around good guy, great episode Ethan.
He's right about Jokic's brothers. That would be looked at quite differently if they were black. But Jokic didn't 'end Morris' season.' And leaving out all the context of the shove is pretty disingenuous.