If you’re the kind of sports fan who likes to watch ridiculous failure the first thing in the morning, you’ve pretty much got two choices: The weird part of YouTube where people set Mark Sanchez’s “Butt Fumble” to “Yakety Sax,” or ESPN’s “First Take.”
On Tuesday’s edition, Ryan Hollins, filling in for Stephen A. Smith, offered up a take so erroneous that were Stephen A. there to reply, he might well have said, “Stay off the weed.”
Shaquille O’Neal, a guest on “First Take,” was so flummoxed that he asked the other hosts, “Would you be mad at me if I just walked off the show?”
Those with a weak stomach for the preposterous are advised to look away:
Hollins also asserted that LeBron James will “end up on the Lakers’ Mount Rushmore.” That’s an even less-defensible argument than a Warriors team that lost two NBA Finals out of five attempts and looked like a shockingly ordinary squad without Kevin Durant against the Toronto Raptors in the recently concluded 2019 championship round beating Jordan and the Bulls.
James played in only 55 games in 2018-19 after a groin injury he suffered on Christmas Day. The 34-year-old has over 50,000 combined regular-season, playoff and international minutes in his career across 16 professional seasons and is far closer to the end of his career than to his prime.
LeBron looks more like a late-’80s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar than the “Mount Rushmore” of — well, pick any four of Magic Johnson, Jabbar, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, all of whom had more iconic Lakers careers than James is likely to have in the Jordan-on-the-Wizards stage of his decline.
O’Neal, whose feud with Bryant was one of the factors that broke up a Lakers mini-dynasty that reached four Finals in five years between 2000 and 2004 and won three titles, went to bat for his former teammate in the debate.
“You said LeBron James is the greatest player ever?” he asked Hollins. “What about Michael and Kobe? So you’re just going to pass Kobe up like that?”
Hollins replied, “I’m going to pass Kobe up, I’m going to look at Michael.”
At that, O’Neal picked up Hollins’ coffee mug, took a hearty sniff, and said, “Oh, I knew it, Patron, America,” implying that Hollins had tequila where coffee ought to be.
Now, to be fair to Hollins, no respectable analyst of the NBA and its history who isn’t also a rabid Lakers fan seriously believes Kobe Bryant is one of the three greatest players in league history, but kudos to Shaq for standing up for his friend.
Hollins also shot his own argument about a hypothetical Warriors-Bulls series in the foot when he said “regardless of era and ruleset,” which dovetails with exactly zero arguments serious people have ever made about that question.
You can argue that Golden State would beat Chicago using 2019 rules, where the Bulls’ aggressive defense would lead to a ton of foul calls and the wide-open game would favor the Warriors’ 3-point shooting. But to suggest that Golden State would beat the Bulls in the 1990s? Absurd.
“Whoever’s paying him to say all this stuff, I will pay you double to stop it,” O’Neal said.
Although maybe we shouldn’t expect too much from Hollins. His job on “First Take” — indeed, the entire premise of ESPN’s morning dose of bombast that the show represents — isn’t to make intelligent sports arguments.
It’s to set Twitter on fire so ESPN can get clicks and ratings. And at that, he’s a natural:
Ryan Hollins’ tv career is going to be so much bigger and better than his hoops career. Dude has already mastered the Bayless art of pissing everyone off
— Kazeem Famuyide ? (@RealLifeKaz) June 18, 2019
On the other hand, his ability to spout utter nonsense with complete confidence makes him a great potential campaign manager for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Stay off the weed, Ryan.
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