LOS ANGELES- It has been well documented that television networks and major sports leagues show love to superstar players.
It’s also noted that most fans tend to be upset with the media for showing a one-sided approach.
Just ask fans how sweet it is when the Yankees or the Patriots lose. In contrast, the media tends to get on the Foxborough folk while defend the pinstripes.
However, no bias has ever captured the sports world than the affair with the Los Angeles Lakers. The rich tradition of the purple and gold has been both mesmerizing to its supporters and nauseating to its critics.
Upon superstar Lebron James’ arrival in LA back in 2018, networks celebrated that the Lakers would be great once again.
However, the first season turned out to be a disaster as LA failed to qualify for the playoffs. James registered 27-8-8 and unfortunately, it resulted in a 28-27 record in the games that he played in.
Skip Bayless, a noted Lebron critic, spoke volumes following a Laker loss to the in-State rival Clippers of how networks tended to have preferences towards the star.
“The league needed him,” Bayless stared. “The networks needed him in the playoffs”
Fast forward to this season and the Lakers are comfortably in the playoffs and the #1 seed in the Western Conference. This all due in part to Janes essentially shipping out his entire team for Pelicans F Anthony Davis.
Before fans want to jump in and cry that Michael Jordan stacked his team, it should be noted that he only signed Dennis Rodman and co-star Scottie Pippen was acquired through the draft.
With Davis and Lebron combined with other savvy veteran stars, LA removed itself from its recent bad stretch and dominated their way to the top of the league. Stacking the deck while also impressing against top competition.
Wait….Haven’t we seen this movie before when the Lakers stacked their “deck” with superstars? Oh wait, yes we have, just 16 years ago.
In 2004, it was Shaq and the late great Kobe Bryant adding stars Gary Payton and Karl Malone. Lo and behold, the fawning of the networks.
The climax of the bias came to fruition during the 2004 NBA Finals when Los Angeles took on the Eastern Conference champion Detroit Pistons, whom were led by Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, and Rasheed Wallace.
Heading into that series, it was clear that the media coverage was all pro-Lakers. They had just won three in a row at one point and were at the top of their game.
The Pistons, according to the networks, didn’t have the big name stars and thus were titled as heavy underdogs. Despite their suffocating defense which was highly regarded, they were deemed to have no shot.
Some even in the Detroit media were skeptical of their teams chances. To the tune of whether the Pistons would be swept or lose in five games. That however, would happen only in a different result.
The series lasted five games, but to the shock and stunning of everyone with a microphone, it was Detroit who silenced everyone with a 4-1 series win and a clear message sent. “Don’t doubt us”
Fast forward to 2020, the bias was once again exposed as following an opening day loss to the LA Clippers, G Patrick Beverly openly called out the media for their one-sided coverage.
Beverly spoke of TV programs routinely showing highlights of James in defeats, without discussing in–depth analysis of the opposition. At one point , Beverly challenged the media to report the facts instead.
Is it fair to say that networks tend to have some bias towards superstars and that leagues tend to show preference? Yes.
Fans will bring up the series against the Sacramento Kings as “evidence”. Yes it was seen that there was something rather fishy about that series but there has yet to be proof.
Speculation however, is justified in the fact that Kobe and Shaq make more money for television than Chris Webber’s team. Take your pick and think honestly about what networks and pundits want.
The Lakers just happen to be a team that has been shown preference, even when there was a stretch of consecutive losing before James arrived and Bryant had retired.
Los Angeles is a big market and frankly, big markets have big television deals, hence they go hand in hand. Plus the Lakers history plays a factor with 16 titles all time and a crusade of hall of fame players having donned their colors.
One fact remains clear, networks will nit pick the big stories and tailor it towards larger names and larger markets.
As for the Lakers, they have their own issues with dealing with the bubble scenario. They have fan support behind them, and possibly network support as well.