We need to talk about the reaction to LeBron James’ comments about Brittney Griner On a preview for the fifth season of his show, The Shop, which debuts on July 15th, LeBron James can be heard noting that Brittney Griner has been detained by Russia for over 110 days for having hash oil in her luggage.
In the clip he says “How can she feel like America has her back?”
He also adds that in her situation, he might be questioning whether he even wants to go back to America.
The usual suspects are upset by LeBron’s suggestion that love of country might depend, for some people, on how much your country loves you.
“This country gave LeBron everything,” they say.
“If you hate it so much here, you’re free to leave,” they say.
Well I’m here to ask those same people that are offended every time our generation’s greatest basketball player attempts to use his voice to call for an improved American experience:
If you love America so much, why is the number one rated news show “Tucker Carlson complains about the direction of America?”
If you love America so much, why walk around in a red hat that claims that America is no longer great?
If you love America so much, why give less energy to supporting the release of one of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time than you do supporting the release of idiots that tried to lynch YOUR vice president when he wouldn’t help rig an election?
People that safeguard what “love for America” looks like can do that because at some point in their life, they felt like their country truly loved them back. Newsflash to those people- NOT EVERYBODY IN THIS COUNTRY HAS HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF FEELING THAT LOVE.
And a lot of those people happen to have similar skin tones to Brittney Griner and LeBron James.
They should be allowed to chase that feeling, just like you do. Even if they complain, just like you do.
For the 1000th time, are you ready to settle the debate of all debates? Who is the GOAT, LeBron James or Micheal Jordan?
A popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Over the course of a decade, sports media members on television shows, podcasts, and online publications dedicate a portion of the offseason to one question – who’s the GOAT, LeBron or Jordan?
In typical debate fashion, one side argues for Jordan. Jordan has six championships and six Finals’ MVPs. Jordan won those championships with two three-peats in 8 years and in the two years in-between, he was playing baseball.* The other side argues for LeBron, who going into this season, had three championships and three Finals’ MVPs. Although most people claim they hate watching this debate, the Internet loves controversy and getting #madonline so the Jordan v. LeBron debate is an easy way to go viral if you have an outlandish take.
Although I fear for my life, I have to mention that Jordan returned towards the end of the 1994-1995 NBA season, which resulted in a second-round loss to the Orlando Magic. If I don’t write an article next week, then you can assume angry Jordan fans kidnapped me for mentioning the 1995 playoffs.
After the Lakers won the championship inside the NBA Bubble, the debate has more heat than Hulk Hogan joining the NWO. LeBron became the only player in NBA history to win three championships and three Finals MVPs with three different franchises.
We know Stephen A. Smith will defend Michael Jordan to the end of time and we know Nick Wright will continue to back LeBron James for as long as he lives. Stephen A and Nick Wright are good representatives for each side of the debate. The strength of the Jordan argument lies with his career peak, the three-peat, 90s dominance, and the phrase, “six for six.” On the other hand, the strength of LeBron’s argument lies with his statistics, playoff success, NBA Finals appearances, and three championships with three different franchises.
LeBron continues to strengthen his case, which is a rallying cry LeBron’s troops to attack Jordan fans. If LeBron loses in the playoffs next year, Jordan’s army of stans will infiltrate Twitter with MJ propaganda, and “LeBron can never be the GOAT” tweets. Consequently, Jordan’s two seprate three peats is something LeBron will never do, which quiets parts of LeBron’s case.
At this point in time, if neither side will give an inch, what’s the point of the debate? If both sides remain show steadfast loyalty to LeBron or MJ, why bother? Is the GOAT debate Einstein’s definition of insanity?
We’re asking the wrong questions. We shouldn’t be asking about the identity of GOAT. We should should be asking if the argument is capable of change. Can LeBron do something to either weaken or strengthen his claim as the GOAT?
The first part of that coin is easy. If LeBron loses at any point in the playoffs, Jordan backers will be the first to point this out. Somehow, losing in the second round is better than losing in the finals, which is the most egregious talking point in the entire debate.
The other side of the coin is trickier and clouded with uncertainty. Let’s throw stats like points, rebounds, and assists out the window. The media has taught us the importance of rings so what matters are championships. Jordan has six to Lebron’s four. If LeBron were to win seven rings and win seven Finals MVPs, would that be enough to push him over the top? If LeBron ties Jordan with six rings, what’s the tiebreaker? If LeBron wins one or even zero rings throughout the rest of his career, can he still reach GOAT status?
As an Internet user, it’s been drilled in my head that that rings matter so if LeBron wins seven rings, he’s the GOAT. For now, I’m going to wait until LeBron’s career ends to make my decision. Am I taking the easy way out? Possibly, but until either side proves they can give an inch, the debate will remain a never-ending circle of insanity.
Who’s the GOAT, LeBron or Jordan? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.
The effects of the Coronavirus is being felt in every industry. The sports industry is no different, but that has not stopped lawsuits involving LeBon James, Jimmy Butler, and Lamar Jackson. Roughly two weeks ago the NBA suspended their season after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the Coronavirus. Soon after, his teammate Donavan Mitchell tested positive. Both players have recently been cleared of the Coronavirus. However, the continued reality of the threat of the Coronavirus led the MBL, NHL, and MLS to suspend their seasons as well. The NCAA was forced to cancel all spring sports and the March Madness tournament. Most recently, Japan and the International Olympic Committee agreed to postpone the 2020 Summer Games to 2021.
Accordingly, sports fans are relying on the rebroadcasts of classic games for entertainment. Even though the entertainment portion of the sports has come to an unexpected halt, the business of sports keeps turning. This is especially true in the realm of sports law. In the last week, three lawsuits involving some of sports favorite athletes came to light. Two cases involve two of the NBA’s most notable players, LeBron James and Jimmy Butler. The third case involves the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player of the Year, Lamar Jackson.
Hold on King James…That Photo Does not Belong to You
During LeBron James’ 17-year career, he has been the focal point of some pretty iconic NBA photos. There are photos of James blocking Andre Iguodala’s shot in game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. There is the iconic photo of Dwayne Wade and King James on the Miami Heat when James lays down a monster slam dunk. Before the NBA season was abruptly halted by the Coronavirus, King James was caught in yet another timeless photo. On December 19, 2019 photographer, Steven Mitchell was working the Lakers versus Heat game. Mitchell caught an awesome moment of King James dunking over Meyers Leonard.
Soon after the game, the photo was cropped and posted to James’s Facebook account. The post, which is still up has received over one thousand likes, has been shared 92 times, and has 61 comments. The picture was also posted on James’ Instagram Account. There it received over 2 million likes. To many, this may not seem like a big deal. What could be wrong with James posting a picture of himself? The answer is that it could be a copyright law violation. Accordingly, the photographer, Steven Mitchell, sued LeBron James alleging that posting the photo onto James’ social media platforms infringed on his copyright law protections.
Does James’ Post Violate Mitchell’s Rights in the Photo Under Copyright Law?
Copyright is an intellectual property right grounded in the United States Constitution. Authors are granted copyright protection for their original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright protection applies to photos. As such, Mitchell sued LeBron James, Uninterrupted Digital Ventures, and LRMR Ventures for copyright infringement. Mithcell alleges that James and the other defendants infringed on his copyright in the photo when it was cropped and posted on James’s Facebook and Instagram pages without Mitchell’s consent. The complaint asserts that Uninterrupted Digital Ventures and LRMR Ventures operate James’ Facebook page. Mitchell requests a jury trial to determine whether the federal Copyright Act was violated. He also seeks damages up to $150,000 per infringement.
Independent Sports and Entertainment Says Jimmy Butler Needs to Pay Up
Independent Sports and Entertainment (ISE) is telling Miami Heat star, Jimmy Butler, to “show them the money.” ISE has sued Jimmy Butler for breaching a Public Relations Agreement (PR Agreement) he entered into with them in July of 2013. ISE is an integrated sport, media, entertainment, and management company that represents talent throughout the entertainment industry. ISE assists professional athletes’ with their off the field and off the court activities. In the complaint, ISE alleges that Jimmy Butler breached their PR Agreement by failing to give them their share of profits from two deals Butler made with Nike.
Per the PR Agreement, Butler is required to pay ISE a 15% gross compensation fee in exchange for ISE’s services assisting with his personal marketing and public relations. ISE alleges that while Butler was under the PR Agreement, he entered into a contract with Nike where he earned $616,666,67. ISE has not received its 15 percent commission in the amount of $92,250. Butler later entered into an addendum on the contract. On the addendum, Butler received at least 5 million dollars. ISE has not received its 15% commission in the amount of $750,000 on the addendum.
In the complaint, ISE stipulates that the non-breaching party must provide notice of the breach to the breaching party and allow the breaching party 30 days to cure the breach. ISE alleges that they provided written notice to Butler and made attempts to collect the amounts due. Furthermore, ISE alleges that they were put in contact with Butler’s financial advisor Ken Kavanaugh who acknowledged that Butler owed the 15% fee and that payment would follow. The payment never came leading ISE to file this suit. Per the complaint, ISE is seeking damages for the amounts owed on the Nike contract and addendum.
Lamar Jackson Tells Amazon to Stop Selling his Unauthorized Merchandise
Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback, Lamar Jackson, filed suit against Amazon.com and Amazon.com Services, Inc. (hereafter collectively referred to as Amazon) in a federal district court for infringing on his right to publicity. In the complaint, Jackson alleges that Amazon has directly advertised and sold items bearing Jackson’s name, nicknames, and images without being authorized to do so by him or the NFL. The alleged infringing items include items such as a “LAMARVELOUS Vintage Baltimore Football QB Jackson MVP T-Shirt.” In the complaint, Jackson acknowledges that Amazon had received negative publicity for facilitating the sale of items that infringe on others’ intellectual property rights by third parties in the Amazon Marketplace. However, Jackson contends that the sale of his items is different in that the sale of his items are not in the Amazon marketplace.
Jackson contends that the infringing items at issue are directly falsely promoted and advertised by Amazon as they are designated as “ships from and sold by Amazon.com.” Jackson claims to have requested that Amazon remove and stop selling the items in question. However, Amazon has failed to so. As such, Jackson seeks a permanent injunction requiring Amazon to stop the sale of the items in question. Jackson alleges that the unauthorized sale of items bearing his name, image, and likeness on Amazon has negatively affected his own clothing line business. Accordingly, Jackson also seeks damages and disgorgement of Amazon’s profits.
Governor Gavin Newsom broke the internet this morning when a video of him signing the Fair Pay to Play Act into law was released. The Fair Pay to Play Act was one of the hottest issues of the summer. It led everyone to debate ifcollege athletes should be paid above a cost-of-attendance scholarship. The debate is no longer, at least for college athletes in California. Governor Newsom sat with LeBron James on his hit show The Shopand signed the bill into law.
King James was an ardent supporter of the bill. The Fair Pay to Play Actwill give college athletes in California the ability to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) and the ability to sign with an agent. Governor Newsom ignored the NCAA’s threat to prohibit colleges in California from participating in post-season championships and signed the bill into law. What will this mean for college athletes in California in 2023 when the bill is set to take effect?
The Fair Pay to Play Act
The Fair Pay to Play Act seeks to accomplish two goals for college athletes attending four-year colleges in California. One goal is to allow them to sign with agents. Pursuant to the bill, the agents must be licensed with the state. The agents must also be fully compliant with the federal Sports Agent Responsibility and Trust Act. The second goal is to give college athletes in California the ability to profit from their name, image, and likeness.
Under the Act, colleges will be prohibited from upholding any rule that prevents college athletes from receiving compensation for their NIL. Any compensation that is earned will not affect the athletes’ scholarships. Furthermore, the NCAA will not be able to keep college athletes from participating in collegiate sports simply because they receive NIL compensation. The NCAA also will not be able to ban a school from participation because its athletes receive NIL compensation.
However, college athletes do not have a blanket rule to enter into a contract without any consideration for their team’s pre-existing contracts. If an athlete enters into a contract, the athlete must inform the school. If the athlete’s contract conflicts with the team’s contract, the athlete will not be able to enter into that contract. However, the team contract will not prevent an athlete from receiving NIL compensation when the athlete is not engaged in official team business. The Act does not apply to prospective college athletes. The Fair Pay to Play Act will only apply to four-year colleges. However, the California legislature intends to create a community college NIL working group to study the California Community College Athletic Association’s rules.
Podcast Discussion About the Name, Image, and Likeness Bills
How will the Fair Pay to Play Act Effect Colleges in other States?
During his appearance on The Shop, Governor Newsom stated that “the [Fair Pay to Play Act] will initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation.” Governor Newsom could not be more right. Before he signed the Fair Pay to Play Act into law other states had already followed suit. For example, New York state senator Kevin Parker introduced the New York Collegiate Athletic Participation Compensation Act. The New York bill is very similar to the Fair Pay to Play Act, but goes a bit further.
New York Collegiate Athletic Participation Compensation Act
The New York Collegiate Athletic Participation Compensation Act also seeks to give college athletes the right to profit from their NIL without losing their scholarship or collegiate eligibility. The bill prohibits New York colleges from upholding any rule that prevents college athletes from receiving NIL compensation. The bill also prohibits the NCAA from banning an athlete from collegiate participation due to NIL compensation. Likewise, the bill prohibits the NCAA from banning colleges whose athletes receive NIL compensation.
Like the Fair Pay to Play Act, college athletes in New York would not have the blanket ability to enter a contract without consideration of their team’s pre-existing contracts. The athletes will be required to inform their school of any contract they enter into. They would not be allowed to enter a contract that conflicts with the team’s contracts. However, a team contract will not prevent an athlete from receiving NIL compensation when the athlete is not engaged in official team business.
The New York Collegiate Athletic Participation Compensation Act also gives college athletes the ability to sign with agents. The agents must be properly registered and compliant with federal laws. The bill also exempts community colleges and calls for a working group to be created to address the NIL issue for community colleges. The bill also does not apply to prospective college athletes. The New York Collegiate Athletic Participation Compensation Act is very similar to the Fair Pay to Play Act. However, the New York bill takes college athlete compensation a couple of steps further.
The New York Collegiate Athletic Participation Compensation Act Seeks to go the Extra Mile
The New York Collegiate Athletic Participation Compensation Act seeks to go the extra mile by requiring that each college establish a fund for injured athletes. With this provision, athletes who suffer a career-ending injury in a practice or game will qualify for the fund. The athletes would receive the money upon graduation. The amount of compensation would be determined by each school. Perhaps most notably, the bill goes further by requiring that each college share 15 percent of its revenue from ticket sales with the athletes. These are major differences because it requires the schools to make direct payments to the athletes. Hopefully, California has broken the ice so that these additions to college athlete compensation can become law.
Colorado and South Carolina Also Have Plans to Follow Suit
Lawmakers in South Carolina and Colorado have already announced their intentions to follow suit. They both plan to submit legislation similar to the Fair Pay to Play Act in their upcoming legislative sessions. South Carolina State senator Marlon Kimpson and representative Justin Bamberg plan to introduce the bill. The bill will require the biggest colleges in South Carolina to pay $5,000 a year stipends to athletes in profitable sports like football and basketball. The bill will also seek to allow college athletes to receive compensation from sponsorships and autograph signings.
The Colorado legislation was introduced last session by state senators Owen Hill and Jeff Bridges. However, it was too late in the session when it was introduced. The senators plan to re-introduce the bill in the next legislative session. The Colorado bill will also require direct payment to college athletes from schools. Former college athlete Jeremy Bloom is a supporter of the Colorado legislation.
Whether the NCAA likes it or not, NIL Payments are Coming
Governor Newsom did not back down to the NCAA. From the looks of things, other states are not going to either. Whether the NCAA likes it or not, NIL compensation is coming. As Maverick Carter pointed out on The Shop, America is a capitalistic society. College athletes should have the same rights to participate in this capitalistic society like every other student. The Fair Pay to Play Act and other similar legislation seek to give college athletes that right. In light of Governor Newsom’s decision, it will be interesting to see what the NCAA’s NIL working group proposes. The working group is expected to share its findings and decision soon.
If anyone ever doubted the influence of LeBron James and his team, that doubt should be put to rest. Yesterday the NCAA announced that they were removing the controversial bachelor’s degree requirement from their agent certification requirements. This announcement came just hours after Rich Paul, LeBron James’ longtime friend and agent, released an op-Ed in the Athletic criticizing the bachelor’s degree requirement. If that is not a demonstration of insurmountable influence, then what is?
The NCAA’s Agent Certification Process did not Last a Week Before it saw Sweeping Change
Last week, the NCAA revealed their new agent certification process. The certification process is for agents who wish to represent college basketball players looking to test the NBA Draft waters while maintaining collegiate eligibility. When the NCAA revealed that completion of a bachelor’s degree was one of the requirements, the sports world went into a criticizing frenzy. King James led the charge, dubbing the rule the “Rich Paul” rule, as he saw it as a snub at the success of Paul.
Rich Paul has Evolved into a Super Agent
Paul has experienced unprecedented success as an NBA agent. Moreover, he disrupted college basketball when he represented Darius Bazley. Bazley was a top high school basketball recruit. However, he opted out of playing for Syracuse to workout on his own. During this time he interned for New Balance. As a part of the internship, Paul helped Bazely receive $1 million guaranteed and a shoe deal. Bazley has the potential to earn up to $14 million on the deal and was drafted in the first round of the 2019 NBA draft.
Bazley’s New Balance deal speaks to Paul’s abilities. More impressive is that Paul has done all of this without a bachelor’s degree. The NCAA’s initial rule was seen as a slight at the success of Paul. It was also viewed as yet another barrier to future agents like Rich Paul, limiting abilities to break into the sports agent business.
With Pressure from James, Paul, and Others in the Sports Industry the NCAA had no Choice but Give In
Many in the sports industry called the rule out for what it was. It was an attempt to keep those at the top of the sports industry in power. There would be no real challenges to the power structure. The Rich Paul rule would have disproportionately negatively affected minorities and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
As Paul mentioned in his op-Ed, the rule as it was would have ultimately prohibited those who do not have the resources, opportunity, or desire to get a four-year degree from entering the agent business. From all of the criticism and pressure, the NCAA was forced to get rid of the bachelor’s degree requirement.
If this is not a testament to LeBron James’ and Rich Paul’s influence, the what is?
The NCAA sent the sports world into a frenzy when they announced their new certification process for sports agents who wish to represent college basketball players. The new rule comes as a part of the recommendations made by the Commission on College Basketball (Commission) last April. After the 2017 college hoops scandal led to an FBI investigation and criminal trial, the NCAA created the Commission to help resolve the problems in college basketball. One of the Commission’s recommendations was that the NCAA allow some college basketball players to enlist the guidance of agents. Accordingly, the NCAA released the process for an agent to become NCAA-certified.
To become an NCAA-certified agent, one must have a bachelors degree, be NBPA certified for at least three consecutive years and in good standing, maintain liability insurance, and submit an application by the appropriate deadline. The requirement that agents have a bachelors degree did not sit well with many in the sports industry. The bachelor degree requirement received instant criticism. LeBron James was at the forefront of the criticism as he viewed the rule as a snub at the success of his friend and agent, Rich Paul. He even dubbed the rule the “Rich Paul Rule.”
Why Would LeBron James Think That the Rule is a Snub at Rich Paul?
Rich Paul is a close friend of LeBron James who later became his agent. Paul does not have a bachelors degree but has been ultra-successful as a basketball agent. He learned the agent business through practical real-world experience. Paul then became an NBPA certified agent and created Klutch Sports. In addition to LeBron James, Paul represents Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons, and a host of other top NBA talent. Given Paul’s client roster it is clear that he has totally disrupted the basketball agent industry. He has become an NBA agent powerhouse. Not only has Paul and Klutch Sports disrupted NBA basketball, but he also ruffled some feathers in college basketball.
Darius Bazley was a top high school basketball prospect who was committed to playing at Syracuse. Bazley ultimately changed his mind and opted not to attend Syracuse and to forego his college eligibility. Instead, Bazely worked out on his own to prepare for the NBA draft. With the help of Rich Paul, Bazley landed an internship with New Balance. Paul helped Bazley garner an internship deal where Bazely received a shoe deal and a guaranteed $1 million.
Once Bazley decided not to attend college many wondered if he would be drafted into the NBA. In June that question was answered when Bazely was drafted in the first round at number 23 by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Paul and Bazley raised a lot of eyebrows with their unconventional newly charted path to the NBA. Given the disruption that Rich Paul has caused in both professional and college basketball, it is very clear why King James thinks the NCAA’s new agent rule is targeting Rich Paul.
Is it Simply Targeting Rich Paul or is the NCAA Seeking to Prevent a Broader Phenomenon?
Changes in College Athletics
Sports fans will never know for sure if the NCAA created the agent certification guidelines with Rich Paul in mind. However, what is known is that change is afoot in college athletics and in professional basketball. One thing that is for sure is that the NCAA and others at the top of the sports industry are threatened by innovators and disruptors like Rich Paul. They have much to gain by ensuring there is a system in place to make it more difficult for future Rich Pauls.
In college athletics, the NCAA’s model is being attacked on all fronts. The NCAA is defending the farce of amateurism in court. Recently, the NCAA was forced to create a working group to address the various federal and state-level bills. The bills seek to allow college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness. With the many challenges to the current college sports landscape, the NCAA is willing to do whatever it takes to retain control. Requiring a bachelors degree is one way that the NCAA seeks to accomplish that goal.
Having a College Degree Does not Automatically Equal Quality Representation
Yes, it is true that requiring agents to have a bachelor’s degree is a move to safeguard the players. However, simply having a degree does not automatically make a person qualified to negotiate a sports contract. Nor does it automatically mean that the person will not take advantage of the athlete. Furthermore, classroom education does not beat out real-world experience. Hence, the reason entry-level and recent graduate job postings still ask for one to two years of experience. One thing the bachelor’s degree requirement does is make sure others like Rich Paul have another hurdle to cross.
Lack of a college degree does not automatically equal sub-par representation. The clearest example of that is Rich Paul. Furthermore, the degree requirement could automatically preclude those closest to the athletes and with the athletes’ best interest at heart from representing them. Is that in the athletes’ best interest in all cases? The NCAA should have an option where a certain amount of experience takes the place of the degree requirement just as the NBPA does.
Certainly Benefits Those Already at the Top of the Agent Industry
Paul’s willingness to help athletes go after their goals in their own way has made him attractive to other players. This phenomenon has lead to some disruptions in professional basketball player representation. The most telling example of this is Anthony Davis and his attempt to force his way to the Lakers this past season. Other agents are threatened by Rich Paul. Creating a rule that requires a bachelors degree is a way to make sure disruptors like Rich Paul have a harder time getting started in the business.
The bachelor’s degree requirement puts Rich Paul and similarly situated agents behind because it precludes them from building relationships with college basketball players. While requiring a bachelors degree can help safeguard college basketball players, it is not foolproof. For that reason, it is likely that the rule may have been more about the NCAA and other top sports industry leaders retaining their power than protecting the athletes.
Serena Williams may have been defeated in the Wimbledon finals, however, that did not minimize her victory during the post-match press conference. A reporter asked Williams a very insensitive and narrow-minded question. In a nutshell, the reporter asked Williams how does she respond to comments made by others suggesting that she stop being a celebrity and fighting for equality and focus on tennis? Williams tackled the question head-on with the perfect answer. She eloquently responded by stating: “The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I’m in my grave.” With that response, Williams reaffirmed her unrelenting commitment to fighting for equality.
The reporter’s question is filled with undertones of a narrow-minded belief that his held by many sports fans.
The Shut-Up and Dribble Mentality
Many sports fans have the “shut up and dribble mentality”. They believe that athletes should simply stick to sports and essentially shut up and dribble. Such fans are against athletes using their athletic platforms to shed light on societal ills or political debates. They contend that athletes should simply focus on providing entertainment for fan viewing pleasure. These contentions may sound familiar as they were repeated over and over by dissenters of Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem.
Some go as far as to contend that an athlete’s celebrity status shields them from the stereotypes and systemic prejudices of being a part of the demographic group(s) of which they belong. They spout out ignorance like what can a multi-million dollar athlete have to complain about. Serena Williams is a multi-million dollar athlete with 23 Grand Slam Finals wins. According to this logic, what could she possibly have to complain about? What issues could she possibly feel the need to be so vocal about? There is no way that she could possibly be a victim of discrimination or inequality. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Serena Williams has plenty to be vocal about.
Serena Williams has Every Reason to Champion for Women’s Rights
Throughout her career, Serena Williams has dealt with negative commentary about her body. She has been shamed because of her muscles with comments from people saying that she was “born a guy“. Serena and her sister Venus have been referred to at the “Williams brothers“. Serena Williams’ body has even been compared to a monster truck. In 2018, Williams was arguably singled out when the French Tennis Federation announced their ban on catsuits shortly after Williams wore one to the FrenchOpen. Serena Williams wore the catsuit for health reasons from complications she suffered during childbirth. However, the Federation stated that players “must respect the game and the place.”
With all of the criticism that Williams has endured during her career, it should come as no surprise that she is a champion for women’s rights. Her celebrity status and her seven-figure salary was no shield for the incendiary comments from critics and tennis fans throughout her career. Her celebrity status was certainly not a shield to protect her from the blood clot issue she suffered during childbirth. All of the criticism Williams has endured coupled with the general struggles she as endured as a woman makes the reporter’s question all the more insensitive and her answer all the appropriate.
However, this assumption could not be further from the truth. This assumption is certainly not true for Serena Williams who has endured much criticism for being a superior black female athlete.
After all, professional athletes make millions of dollars. What could they possibly have to complain about?
In 2017’ just as LeBron James was embarking on his seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals, a racial slur was spray-painted on his home in California. King James is regarded by many as the greatest basketball player ever and by some as one of the greatest athletes in the world. He has three NBA titles and has represented the United States on Team USA three times. However, all of his accomplishments was not enough to shield him the prejudices that are often directed to black men in this country. How is an athlete supposed to stick to sports when racial epithets are spray-painted on their home?
The NBA Superteam Era is dead. Kawhi Leonard made sure of this when he dismantled the Golden State Warriors and rejected Lebron James’ attempts to lure him to the Los Angeles Lakers. The landscape has shifted to “Super Duos,” with players now desiring to team up with friends or individuals who complement their skills and can share superstar duties. Here’s a look at the NBA’s best “Superstar Duos” heading into the 2019-20 NBA Season:
Tier 3 – The “Up and Comers” NBA Player Duos
12. Devin Booker / Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns)
In their first season together, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton led the Phoenix Suns to 19 wins. The Los Angeles Lakers went 31-19 when Kobe joined Shaq in the starting lineup during the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season. Though Booker and Ayton aren’t quite “Shaq and Kobe 2.0” status, both are extremely talented individuals who should create a formidable inside-outside combination for years to come. With a full year under their belt and improvement at the head coaching position, the 2019-20 NBA Season should bring improved chemistry and many more wins.
11. Luka Doncic / Kristaps Porzingis (Dallas Mavericks)
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis haven’t played a single game together but are already expected to form the best pick and pop tandem in the league. Porzingis has spent the entirety of his Dallas Mavericks’ career admiring the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year, but the “Unicorn” will need to make an immediate impression if the Mavericks hope to make an impact in the Western Conference. This duo’s success depends on how well Porzingis recovers from a torn ACL that will have sidelined him for close to 20 months once the 2019 NBA Season begins. Charles Barkley expects this pair to turn into the greatest “one-two punch… for the next 10 years.”
Despite being selected to the 2019 Eastern Conference All-Star team, many still aren’t sold on Khris Middleton as a max player. This pair’s position is propped by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s supernova athletic ability. But Middleton’s capability as a three-point shooter (career 39%) carries great value when paired with Antetokounmpo’s slashing playmaking. Middleton contributes in a number of ways and is the perfect teammate for Antetokounmpo’s needs.
9. Donovan Mitchell / Mike Conley Jr. (Utah Jazz)
Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. are no “Stockton and Malone,” but the two have the opportunity to create their own legacy as the next great Utah Jazz duo. Conley’s experience with the “Grit and Grind” Memphis Grizzlies will be vital in helping Donovan Mitchell take the next leap in a competitive Western Conference.
8. Damian Lillard / CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)
The 2019-20 NBA Season may be the last time we see this version of the Portland Trail Blazers. Though they reached the Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors made quick work of the Blazers in 4 games. Damian Lillard recently signed a 4 year / $191 Million supermax extension and CJ McCollum is entering the penultimate season of his rookie extension. If this duo is unable to take another step in a much more open NBA landscape, 2019-20 may be the last season they share duties in the Blazers backcourt.
7. Nikola Jokic / Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
Nikola Jokic is a perennial MVP candidate and Jamal Murray has shown consistent improvement throughout his first three years in the league. Denver Nuggets’ Coach Mike Malone has described this twosome’s chemistry as “almost romantic” in describing the ways this pairing plays off each other in their uniquely styled offense. The top pairing under-25, this dynamic duo has the potential to keep the Denver Nuggets atop the Western Conference for years to come.
6. Joel Embiid / Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
This is the rare combination in which the big man has the better outside game that his perimeter counterpart. In order for this duo to take the next step into the tier below, Ben Simmons will need to make a significant improvement to (or at least develop) his jump shot to help create spacing for Joel Embiid down low. The 76ers are primed to be the best team in the Eastern Conference for years to come, but such success hinges on how Embiid and Simmons are able to harmonize on the hardwood.
Tier 1 – The “Elite” NBA Superstar Duos
5. James Harden / Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets)
News of this trade sent social media in a whirlwind, with many asking the same question: is one ball enough? A lot has changed since James Harden and Russell Westbrook played together in Oklahoma City; Harden has blossomed from a mini-bearded Sixth Man of The Year, while Westbrook has grown accustomed to leading-man duties. But you don’t pass up on pairing two MVPs in their prime. While this fit may be questionable, the sheer talent of this NBA superstar duo alone is worth the gamble.
4. Kevin Durant / Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets)
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving had been plotting to team up since 2018. Unfortunately, they may have to wait to see their dream come to fruition while Kevin Durant rehabs from a torn Achilles suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Durant and Irving have reached the pinnacle of success while playing roles in other legendary duos. With the Brooklyn Nets now the forefront of New York basketball, this duo will have the chance to cement their place in basketball lore by bringing an NBA Championship to the Big Apple.
3. Steph Curry / Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
The 2019-20 NBA Season will be a gap year for the “Splash Brothers.” With Klay Thompson recovering from a torn ACL that should sideline him for the majority of the season, Steph Curry will be left to man the ship with his temporary replacement, D’Angelo Russell. Despite Thompson’s injury, this duo’s success should place them above every other combination on this list; however, the moves that took place this offseason have this Warriors’ combo embracing their newfound underdog role.
2. Lebron James / Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
1. Kawhi Leonard / Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)
The Los Angeles “Superstar Duos” is the result of blockbuster moves each team made this offseason. The Lakers paired two top-five players by acquiring Anthony Davis to team up with Lebron James. But the Clippers’ one-upped their in-town rival by signing two-time NBA finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who has staked his claim as the best player in the league. And with his recruitment of Paul George, Leonard paired himself with an elite superstar who has no problem taking control of both ends of the floor. All roads now run through the Staples Center and the battle for Los Angeles is to sure to result in many “epic” matchups between these two for years to come.
Though the above is a live look of the New Orleans Pelicans ticket staffers learning their team won the 2019 NBA Draft lottery and right to draft Zion Williamson, it’s safe to say the Brooklyn Nets sales team experienced this same joy at the start of NBA Free Agency. The signing of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signifies a coming of age story for the Nets and the end of an era for their crosstown rival. Once heralded as the “Mecca” of basketball, the aura that surrounded Madison Square Garden is gone. New York Knicks’ owner James Dolan was reportedly hesitant to sign Kevin Durant to a maximum deal. But if your team’s president has to release a statement responding to angry fans, that’s clearly not the correct business decision.
NBA Star Market Value
NBA Superstars Drive Revenue
People pay to see stars, and teams know it. Immediately after signing the two-all stars, an all-out race for Nets season tickets ensued. Currently, the cheapest ticket available is $4,000 a seat, which is quite an expense for a team that won a total of 48 games prior to the 2018-2019 NBA Season.
NBA stars do more than put fans in the seats; they serve as an economic catalyst for all other aspects of their team’s city. When Lebron James announced his “Decision” in 2010, not only did he take his talents to South Beach, but also $48 million in annual revenue. When James re-signed with Cleveland in 2014, Professor Leroy Brooks estimated his return added nearly $500 million to the local economy. The Cavaliers suffered another negative swing when Lebron moved west to the Los Angeles Lakers.
NBA teams lack profitability and marketability without a star player. Fans routinely discuss how players aren’t worth a certain contract. When Kobe Bryant became the league’s highest-paid player in 2014, he did so to show players should not feel forced to take less than their worth and stated:
“Athletes are the ones that are in the public eye the most. And so their salaries are constantly talked about, so it’s very easy to look at the athlete and say, ‘You should be doing more and you should be taking less,’ when the reality is that your market value is so much higher than what people understand.
” ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, but you still should be taking less to win. Why do we have to do that? Because the owners locked us out and imposed a hard cap where we ‘have to’ take less in order for them to generate more revenue. Right? But meanwhile, they go and sign a TV deal that’s a billion dollars up from the last one, but that doesn’t get talked about. Nobody complains about that.”
Maximum Value Under The NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement
Maximum salaries are the product of the 1998-1999 NBA lockout initiated by owners who feared player salaries were getting out of control. After the Minnesota Timberwolves gave 21-year old Kevin Garnett an extension worth six years, $126 million, billionaire owners decided they couldn’t “have the inmates running the prison.”
Now, maximum salaries are dependent on the player’s years of services. In a truly open market, superstar players such as Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Stephy Curry, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis would be worth at least $75 Million. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, and Nikola Jokic would easily pull in contracts worth $50 million to $60 million per year. Hell, Zion Williamson is on the verge of signing a $100 million shoe deal; it makes no sense that his perceived NBA value is $45 million over four years.
Despite the league’s continued growth, it’s unlikely that the cap will rise to a level that will allow players to receive their true worth. While it may be hard to quantify the value a superstar brings, one method would be to allow teams the ability to sign a player outside of cap space. Instead of retiring jerseys, if owners truly want to show their appreciation, this is the route they should take. Then, the future Lebrons, Durants, and Antetokounmpos would be able to live in the world Kobe hoped to create for his fellow stars.
More than any other major sport, NBA players are judged almost exclusively by their ability to win an NBA championship. While no one (okay very few people) criticizes Mike Trout for not winning a World Series, NBA fans seem only to care about a superstar’s ability to lead his team to an NBA championship. Players like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul constantly have their greatness questioned. Yet, we don’t hear that talk about Anthony Davis. The oxymoron is that the same fans typically don’t like it when players form join teams that already feature superstars to form super teams, in an effort to make winning that championship easier. Kevin Durant is perhaps the most notable recent example of a player who was victimized for not winning a championship and then villainized for joining the Warriors in an attempt to do just that.
It’s a cruel, somewhat unforgiving world for these star players, and no one seems to be immune to it.
Except, for some reason, former Pelicans center Anthony Davis.
Now with the Lakers, Davis managed to avoid the heaps of criticism that followed Durant, Lebron, Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and numerous other superstars who were first criticized for not winning – and then again criticized for how they attempted to win – by joining an NBA super team.
That’s not to say Davis doesn’t have his critics, particularly from the New Orleans faithful who weren’t too happy to see him demand a trade and sit out last season after six and a half seasons with the team. They’ll survive, particularly now that they have the rights to Zion Williamson and a haul of talent from the Lakers, including Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and a boatload of first round draft picks coming their way.
Why Doesn’t Anthony Davis Get Criticized?
Still, it does make you wonder why Anthony Davis has managed, by and large, to avoid this kind of scrutiny. Is he not on the level that LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant are? Does this kind of criticism not apply to post players, only to guards and forwards? Does he get a pass because he played in New Orleans? Are people actually mad, we just aren’t hearing as much about it?
Hard to say.
For what it’s worth, I think judging players by how many championships they win is disingenuous. Robert Horry is not ten times the player that Karl Malone or Charles Barkley was. Steve Kerr has more championships as a player than Steph Curry, but that doesn’t mean anything.
However, the NBA is the sport where one player can most impact a team. A truly elite NBA player has a bigger impact on a single team than anyone in a baseball, hockey or soccer game, and arguably more than any football player, although an elite quarterback can sometimes make-or-break an entire team.
Therefore, elite players who can’t win championships draw that criticism, whether it is fair or not. They’ll say that “Jordan did it” (he didn’t – he had HOFers Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman alongside him) or they’ll say “Kobe did it” (kinda – but he struggled without Shaq and needed Pau Gasol) but once a player decides to join a team with another superstar or two, they are a pariah that is destroying the parity in the game and hurting the small-market teams who can’t go out and collect multiple superstars.
Of course, destroyer of super teams Kawhi Leonard may have proven that one doesn’t need a super team to win it all.
NBA Super Teams are the norm
So I guess the question becomes, do we care that Anthony Davis joined the Lakers? If so, why? If not – why has he been exempt from that criticism in the past?
One thing is for sure, even with Antony Davis and Lebron James, the Lakers are going to have a hard time getting through the still-stacked Western Conference in 2019, even if the Warriors are without Durant and Klay Thompson next season.