Skip Bayless’ mega-troll schtick continues as he baits more players into his trap of controversy

Young is a highly talented player who recently found himself in a Twitter beef with Bayless over disparaging comments ranging from claims of poor play to making fun of Trae’s height. Nothing is off limits with Bayless as he digs at players because he knows he’ll get a reaction most times.

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Green has also had his issues with Bayless lately in this “old media vs. new media” battle for supremacy. The two have gone at each other on Twitter, podcast platforms, and Undisputed for Bayless. While it is entertaining, responding to Skip’s repeated jabs only pushes forward his agenda. Bayless has been trolling for a couple of decades now. He probably doesn’t even believe half the crap that falls out of his mouth at this point.

But these players keep wandering into his traps, feeding into his schtick. That’s all it is anyway. This has been Bayless’ act on TV going back to the days of Cold Pizza, then First Take after that. It’s nothing new. Just ask Chris Bosh and Jalen Rose. Although it made for compelling television, that entire ordeal probably went too far.

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The tension between Bayless and Bosh got so thick that the Heat star joined Skip on First Take in 2011 to confront him about the “Bosh Spice” nickname. Bayless held his ground and even called him Bosh Spice to his face. Ultimately, I’m not sure what that meeting of the minds accomplished, but it was good for ratings. In the end, that’s all Skip cares about, and it’s the main reason for his trolling of the new generation of players.

Skip’s hubris eventually led him into a First Take debate for the ages with Rose. Bayless was destroyed at every turn by Rose, who turned the tables on Skip, mocking his high school statistics. Not long after Rose, NFL player Richard Sherman went on the show and thoroughly obliterated Bayless. The bully got a taste of his own medicine and, for once, did not have a comeback. Well, at least twice, you could say.

Richard Sherman vs. Skip Bayless on ESPN 1st Take

Of course, neither instance caused Skip to reflect and change the error of his ways. He immediately continued trolling players following each incident where he was shut down on a national stage. Talk about giving no F***s. You’d think by now, players would have learned to just allow Bayless to talk himself into a stupor.

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The only players regularly berated by Bayless that don’t feel the need to fire back are Stephen Curry and LeBron James. Every day on FS1, at some point, it’s guaranteed that Skip and Shannon Sharpe will debate over James/Lakers and Curry/Warriors. This was especially true this season as the Warriors returned to prominence and the Lakers stunk up the joint.

No matter how well Curry or James played, Bayless had energy for ‘em, and they never flinched. LeBron put out a tweet before the 2021-22 season about everyone talking about him and his teammates, how old they were, and how it wasn’t going to work with Russell Westbrook, and he just wanted folks to keep the same “narrative energy.” It wasn’t aimed at anyone in particular, but I’m sure Skip came to mind as James typed that tweet.

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Then Steph just seems not to pay much attention to any of it, although he’s commented on what was said about the Warriors during a brief hiatus from the mountain top. Again, he didn’t say any names, but surely Bayless is one of the pundits for which that message was meant. Plus, he’s got Draymond, who does enough talking for the entire team, especially with his podcast.

Kevin Durant may be the easiest player to reel into a verbal altercation via Twitter. He’s never shy about blasting anyone, but I’m sure he takes extra joy in setting his sights on Bayless. Skip’s claimed for years that he is Durant’s “biggest fan,” but that’s never mattered to KD. He’s not a fan of Skip, no matter how many times he debates in his favor on Undisputed.

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With social media and how reactionary many players are today, Bayless will be on tv debating and trolling on social media until he can no longer speak. With guys like Green, Young, and KD more than willing to engage Skip at every turn, his spot is secure in the debate show landscape. If players truly want to do away with Skip Bayless, they’ve got to take a page from the playbook of LeBron and Steph. Don’t say his name. Don’t give him the energy because he feeds off it. 

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How Skip Bayless spends his summer vacation

Except, this is Skip Bayless that we’re talking about. Sure he needs some R&R, but nothing gives him more energy than spewing takes. In the tweet notifying fans of Undisputed that the show would not be airing this week, Bayless eased the fears of an America without his point of view on television for a week, and let it be known that he will be tweeting.

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Bayless started earlier that day. Russell Westbrook saw that during the NBA Draft last Thursday, as Bayless sent out a tweet using the name, Westbrick, that Russ hates so much. In a quote tweet, a clearly unhappy Westbrook told Bayless not to make statements he wouldn’t make in person. Bayless then went all 1994 Jim Rome on him, but in true Bayless form, he follows no one on Twitter, he didn’t respond to the Westbrook tweet, he made a brand new post.

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That wasn’t all the smoke that Bayless had for athletes during his break. Draymond Green linked up with J.J. Redick for a combined live-audience podcast, and was enthusiastic about sticking it to Bayless with his latest NBA Championship. A few days prior on an episode of Green’s podcast he went after Bayless for not knowing enough about basketball and for “attaching himself” to LeBron James for years to advance his own career. At the live show, Redick’s co-host, Tommy Alter, asked Green who his favorite “fuck you,” was after winning. His response was Bayless, “fucking guy sucks.”

Bayless had enough of Green and issued the same challenge to him that he offered to Westbrook — a debate. This time it was Bayless acting like Green only wants to talk bad about Bayless if he is not in the room. If athletes are upset with Bayless then in his mind the best way to address it is for them to appear on his platforms. He tried for years to get James on First Take when he was at ESPN, but how would that have benefited James? Now here Bayless is again, now at FS1, trying to get people to come argue their point with him in at 7 a.m. or on his newest venture the Skip Bayless Show podcast, maybe even a combined pod with Green

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There has to be a better way to spend a vacation with the level of money that Bayless has. He reportedly makes $8 million per year. Turks and Caicos, South of France, the Maldives, are all much better places to be than on a phone clapping back at Green and Westbrook. Vacation isn’t the time to scream at people to do things that you know they won’t do.

Of course Bayless has an image to maintain among his fans, especially if he wants a younger audience. It’s why he stays buff at 70 years old. Bayless can’t appear fragile or his entire image goes out the window. He’s the big tough guy from Oklahoma, shouting into the abyss, demanding that people talk to him in public if they feel offended. I still remember when he was calling Chris Bosh, “Bosh Spice” because of his play for the Miami Heat. Bayless thought Bosh was soft. Bosh went on First Take, and Bayless refused to commit to stop using the nickname. I didn’t feel like any understanding was reached, but Bayless won because there was a special reason for people to watch that episode and he was somewhat validated.

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When players talk to him face-to-face about something that he’s said, it always makes him look better. It still would even if he appeared on the Draymond Green Show. Any time Bayless is on TV across the table from another athlete it makes Bayless almost an authority figure. It’s as if his criticisms are so important that they have to be addressed urgently.

It’s why Green and Westbrook will likely never appear on his podcast or show. Bayless gains more from it than they do, because he cares enough to crack into his vacation time to ask people to debate him. No island paradise is necessary for Bayless to recover from his workload. He gains more energy by yelling from his island of one.

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It’s time to stop kicking the word ‘superstar’ around the NBA like it’s a game of hacky sack

Basketball Superstars for Shaq

You won’t find many people that disagree with the Hall of Famers’ statement. I might add one or two names to that list, but it certainly isn’t as long as some folks would have you believe. Luka Dončić was crowned by some two years ago as a superstar. I needed to see him lead the Mavs past the first round of the playoffs before I could even consider it. Luka went a step further and carried Dallas to the western conference finals. So, I’m okay with adding Dončić to the list.

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Borderline (Madonna voice)

It feels like I’m going to lose my mind over all these supposed superstars. After about four or five players, we get into murky water in this debate. Can we still consider Kawhi Leonard a superstar? How about Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokić? Embiid and Jokic were the frontrunners for league MVP most of the season, with the latter winning. That made Jokić a back-to-back MVP.

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For most people, that’s enough. Winning two MVP awards in a row is one hell of an accomplishment. Including Jokić, only 14 players in the history of the NBA have won consecutive MVP awards. Three of those guys did it a third time. So, it’s hard not to include Jokić on the superstar list, but when you follow up a great season by getting bounced in the first round of the postseason, that decision becomes much easier.

Before you denounce everything I’ve said, think about this. Go back a decade-plus and think about current Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash. He won back-to-back MVP awards in the mid-2000s. Nash was a great player but never considered a superstar. That’s how I see Jokić right now. He’s a darling among the analytics community, but what did all those pretty numbers accomplish when it was “show me” time? Nikola and the Nuggets went home early.

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Embiid is another one that I think many of us want to be included in the superstar conversation. Joel had his best year in ‘21-22, winning a scoring title, averaging over 30 ppg, and he played in 68 games. That’s the most games Embiid has played in a season since he entered the league. Ultimately, two things are keeping Embiid on the borderline of the superstar/star discussion: 1.) Availability 2.) He’s yet to lead the Sixers to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Others

With the level of talent in the NBA today, just about everyone is capable of posting gaudy statistics based on their role with a team. DeMar DeRozan averaged nearly 28ppg for Chicago this year after falling off the map in San Antonio the previous two seasons. No one is mistaking DeRozan for a superstar despite the fantastic season he just finished. Most people felt Embiid should’ve won MVP anyway.

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I think it’s close for Embiid and Jokić, but I’ve got both big men on the outside looking in. Yes, in the Orlando bubble a couple of years ago, Jokić got the Nuggets to the conference finals. But since that WCF appearance, the Nuggets haven’t gone past the semi-finals, and Jokić won his MVPs in those two campaigns. It’s splitting hairs, but I’ve got Embiid and Jokić on the cusp of superstardom.

Then we’ve got a player like Leonard, who was viewed as a bonafide superstar at one point. But if availability is part of the formula that keeps Embidd out of the club, then we’ve got to show some consistency. When healthy, Kawhi is one of the five best players in the NBA because of what he brings offensively and defensively. Although he’s no longer the defender he was a few years ago, he was still considered a top two-way player before his ACL injury in the 2021 playoffs. Until Kawhi proves he’s still one of the top five players in the league, he’s coming off the list.

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James Harden is another player that was included in this conversation for years, and now he’s more of an afterthought. Anthony Davis has been called a top-five talent since he entered the NBA but hasn’t been able to creep into that superstar category.

Davis played great in 2020 when the Lakers won it all in the bubble, but LeBron was the main driving force on that team like he’s always been. The following year when James was ready to hand over the keys to Davis, he wasn’t prepared for the transition. The most significant issues with Davis have been health and not stepping up and leading when it’s been his time.

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Jayson Tatum flirted with the superstar label this year but ultimately was too inconsistent during their playoff run to plant his flag on that mountain. Trae Young is another young star who could be next in line to become a superstar, but he’s not there yet. I’ve heard Donovan Mitchell’s name mentioned as a superstar over the last couple of years, and I just can’t agree. He’s an outstanding player. Not a superstar.

Damian Lillard is another one who’s right there, and just when it looked like he might have made that crossover into superstar status, he gets hurt and misses more than half the season. Lillard played in about as many games as Kyrie Irving did this season. Lillard was injured, and Irving lives in outer space. But Lillard is much closer to superstar status than Irving will ever be. But due to the rough start last season, then only playing 29 games, Dame is just outside the superstar tier.

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So What Defines a Superstar?

All the players mentioned can be deemed exceptional, but I don’t think a few great moments make one a superstar. Doing it as the lead player on a team, year after year, is what does it. Winning awards and accolades are a factor, without a doubt, but team success means just as much, and probably more.

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The four players that Shaq mentioned have all won rings, regular-season MVP, and Finals MVP awards. LeBron, Giannis, Steph, and KD are bonafide NBA superstars. There’s no debating that. I added Luka to the group, but I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for leaving him off. Right now, he doesn’t have any of the accolades mentioned above. But I think he’ll get there in time.

Superstar should be reserved for the best of the best; in the same way, the term “great team” should also be preserved. Since 2010 there have only been two truly great teams in the NBA. The Miami Heat of the early 00s with James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. Then the Golden State Warriors later in the same decade.

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That’s it. Those were the only teams to win more than one championship that decade. And both teams had superstars leading their squads. The same rule applies to the term superstar. If so many superstars exist in the league, then the word’s meaning no longer carries the same effect. 

Le’Veon Bell and Adrian Peterson will continue the tradition of retired pro athletes turned boxers this summer

Most recently, we’ve seen Frank Gore leave the gridiron, throw on a pair of boxing gloves, and get it on. In his first bout, he fought former NBA point guard Deron Williams. Gore lost that bout via split decision only to return to the ring a few months later, on his birthday, to claim his first professional victory in the ring.

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And everyone remembers Nate Robinson, albeit in a celebrity boxing setting, running into the ring and swiftly being shown the exit. While Peterson and Bell should be closer to the same experience level, this fight might be just as big a disaster as Robinson’s nap on the canvas.

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I’m not mad at Bell, Peterson, or any other former pro athlete who decides this is the route they want to take once their primary sports career ends. But we don’t want to see these guys get in the ring and look like has-beens. I’m sure there isn’t anyone besides the two fighters who expect this fight to resemble anything close to a boxing clinic.

If someone is willing to pay these amateur fighters who just happen to be former pro athletes large sums of money to get in the ring, then I say go for it. Because the truth is, once most of these athletes retire for good from their sport, that’s usually it. Once that spotlight disappears, it doesn’t return for the overwhelming majority.

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There are always a few exceptions, like Michael Jordan, LeBron James (once he retires), Charles Barkley, Deion Sanders, and probably even Tom Brady once he officially calls it quits. And then some choose the media route upon retiring, but even then, most of them fade into the background sooner than later.

Getting into boxing immediately after retirement is another way for guys who are used to a certain level of physicality to still be physical and get paid for it. I’m just hoping they take it seriously and approach boxing with the same intensity and vigor they did their respective sport.

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I’m interested to see how long it takes for either Peterson or Bell to get tired and drop their hands. While they’re pro athletes, football and boxing training are different beasts. It’s easy to get hurt on the field or court, but it’s even easier in a fight sport like boxing, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

This is just the beginning, especially with NFL players jumping from field to ring. Now that there’s a lane and obvious audience for this, I think we’ll see at least one or two retired NFLers announce their boxing debut during the next handful of offseasons. If someone funds it, they will come. You can bet on that.

Fighting is allowed, even celebrated in baseball and hockey, but not in basketball and football — you know why

Unsurprisingly, Schumer hasn’t said anything — like most of White America — about the “melee” that led to eight being ejected. That’s because society only blinks when fights happen in sports that are majority Black. It gives them an opportunity to call Black people thugs, say we’re animalistic, discuss why we need more fathers in the home, and somehow find a way to connect everything back to “all the violence in Chicago.” When white players fight in white sports, it’s simply a “dust-up.” Shout out to Jack Del Rio.

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When it seemed like Isaiah Stewart had to be held back by the entire roster of the Detroit Pistons, and everyone on staff, when he went after LeBron James last season for bloodying his eye, the highlights ran non-stop as the conversation continued on social media for days. Just months earlier, a documentary about the Malice at the Palace had been released. And here we were, 17 years later,with Black players in a Black league trying to fight each other involved with the same franchise — the Detroit Pistons — that plays in arguably the Blackest city in America.

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“Too many players in this league whose actions and attitudes bespeak kind of a thug mentality,” said Bob Costas at the time about the Malice in the Palace. Keith Olbermann labeled players as “gangster wannabes.”

Look around, is anybody saying that about the Mariners or Angels?

Nope.

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For some reason, white players are the only ones that are allowed to let their competitive juices flow, especially in baseball, where all of their unwritten rules are just guidelines on how to play the “white way.” And when things do get a little testy, it’s just them “letting off a little steam,” because they’re “fueled by their competitive spirit.”

Earlier this year, Owen Woodward, a pitcher for Weatherford College, speared the batter that he gave up a go-ahead home run to during the top of the sixth inning. The conference gave Woodward a 4-game suspension. His coach kicked him off the team. The attention around the bizarre incident disappeared as fast as it came. If CC Sabathia ever did something like that ESPN would do a 30 for 30 documentary on it.

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And when Ty Gibbs and Sam Mayer got into a fight on pit road a few months ago, the sport promoted it on social media. Because in NASCAR, “rubbin’ is racin’.”

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Ironically, with the physicality of sports like football — where people get hit on every play — and all the bumps and shoves that occur on every play in basketball — especially in the playoffs — you would think that these would be the sports where athletes were allowed to fight. But no, that’s only for sports like baseball — where you’re allowed to throw pitches at people — and hockey, a sport where muscular figure skaters are deemed tough because they lift weights and leave their beards unkempt.

There shouldn’t be any leeway when it comes to fighting in sports. Either we look down on all of it or ignore it across the board when it occurs. However, that would never happen. Because to do that, society would have to “see color.” And we know that’s something they claim they’ve never done. 

Steph-mania has seeped into the WNBA

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And now here’s the one-time Fighting Irishwoman and current Phoenix Mercury guard unholstering her “night night.”

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If I had to rank whose ode to Steph was better, it’s Diggins-Smith’s. She seemed better prepared and had the perfect expressionless assassin look on her face. I mean, she pulls out the celebration as soon as the ball rips through the net, if not sooner.

The best part of all of this Curry worshiping is you know LeBron James is watching and getting madder at every new copycat, wondering why more players aren’t high-stepping and pounding their chests. The readout Maverick Carter gave him said his routine was easy enough to emulate and would resonate with basketball fans and players alike.

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Curry might be the most charismatic player I’ve ever seen. When Michael Jordan retired after the second three-peat, Bob Costas was so enamored with His Airness that their sit-downs mirrored the Chris Farley Show. Sure, ESPN anchors and the guests LeBron invites on the Barbershop are plenty reverent toward King James.

It’s not Bill Simmons and Ryen Russillo complaining about how torn they are rooting against Steph, or WNBA hoopers overlooking the corniness of the night night dance and putting opponents to rest anyway. I said that the Curry celebration was going to be in NBA 2K23, but now it’ll be featured in the promotional material.

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Fans and sportswriters love to throw around the word “transcendent” to the point that it’s lost most of its meaning. However, this particular moment isn’t the best time to make that call. It’s the small things that come after the parade and trophy presentations. Ionescu and Diggins-Smith enthusiastically imitating a hand gesture like it’s the Dougie or the Macarena is what tips the scales from fan favorite to era-defining classic.

Astros show why you never let them see you bleed

There’s not a lot that’ll put a damper on the spirits of Yankees’ fans. The team is well on pace for 100-plus wins, and Aaron Judge is having a season so good that Hal Steinbrenner will offer him a massive extension out of fear that George Steinbrenner’s ghost will suffocate him in his sleep if he doesn’t.

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The Bronx has been burning to such a face-melting degree that fans crave a dismemberment after the first sight of blood. Following a Judge walk-off single Thursday, the best team in baseball has managed a single run and five hits over two losses, with whiskey in the wound coming in the form of being no-hit for the eighth time in franchise history Saturday.

Cristian Javier pitched seven innings of hitless baseball with 13 Ks and one walk. Relievers Hector Neris and Ryan Pressly combined for the final six outs, and Houston notched the no-hitter en route to win No. 45 on the season, good for third-best in the majors.

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Gerrit Cole hurled seven innings for the Yankees, tallying eight Ks while allowing one run in a losing effort. The Astros are good, but the team also knows they’re in the heads of New York’s franchise and fans alike. This kind of pettiness is reserved for the Red Sox, and that’s it.

Either let 2017 go, or let the ’Stros get to you.

Steph, Klay, and the rest of the NBA All-Finals Team

 

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Why the Warriors dominated the Celtics

Sometimes it just feels good to be right. After proclaiming before the NBA Finals started that the Boston Celtics had zero chance against the Golden State Warriors, the Dubs beat the Celtics by double-digits in Game 6 to end the series 4-2. Many across the internet chided this bold proclamation based on the Cinderella…

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