JJ Redick Criticizes NBA Media Coverage: 'We Don't Do a Good Job of Selling What the NBA Is'
By Liam McKeone
As the Denver Nuggets slowly ground the Los Angeles Lakers into dust in the Western Conference Finals, a common NBA media trend entered the general public consciousness -- the slant of the coverage leaning far more towards LA than Denver. People who do not spend all day consuming sports coverage (which is most people) were suddenly subjected to constant analysis of how the Lakers lost and what they could do better rather than how the Nuggets won.
It's been so blatant over the last week that everyone noticed and then grew frustrated regardless of whether or not they had skin in the game. And it was aided by Nuggets head coach Michael Malone constantly calling it out in public, at the cost of celebrating his own achievements.
It's not terribly complicated why this happens. The Lakers Content Machine (and other large market teams in general) is the gift that never stops giving for media companies who survive based off how many people watch and engage with their content. The obvious reality does not make it any less frustrating for basketball fans who want to see coverage of the game rather than whatever topic is going to do the best job of keeping the lights on.
JJ Redick attempted to give a voice to that group on today's First Take and said NBA media was actually very bad at covering the league.
Most people will have two reactions to this. Either they throw their hands up and yell "THANK YOU" to the heavens that somebody appears to empathize with their frustration, or they roll their eyes because Redick is no less guilty than anybody else of pushing the very narratives he is criticizing. Both sides have a point. Redick has grown very popular this year among basketball fans for coming across as the only guy on TV who's willing to call out the obvious problems in how certain things are covered. On the flip side, he's still there alongside Stephen A. Smith having a legitimate conversation about whether it's bad that the Lakers and Celtics are going home instead of talking about the team that just won the West.
It is a problem that has no answer because these shows are not really for people who agree with Redick. Certainly not First Take, at least. The vast majority of viewers that make up the daily audience of ESPN's studio shows do not want to see Redick break down the double-screen action the Nuggets used to pull Anthony Davis out of the paint. They want to see Smith yell something outrageous so they can get mad about it. Out of the 15 million or so people that are going to watch every game of this year's Finals, probably 10 million don't give a damn about the 450 players in the NBA or the 30 teams. They care about the ones they know, which are usually the franchises in big cities. This isn't going to change.
Good on Redick for giving a voice to the problem even if it remains a bit weird hearing people who say things on TV for a living complain about the things they're saying on TV for a living. But this isn't a new problem, nor does it have a solution. It sucks but it would suck a lot more if this was 15 years ago and the various avenues the average fan can pursue to get coverage tailored to their interests were limited. Instead there are dozens of podcasts and video breakdowns and in-depth think pieces that do just that.
It seems a bit useless, then, to get mad at places like ESPN for not providing that at times where the most eyeballs are on the screen. It's just not what ESPN is anymore, if it ever really was. There's obviously room for improvement if matters have gotten to the point where I'm writing 700 words about how overtly Lakers their NBA coverage is. I just wouldn't hold my breath waiting for ESPN or any big media company to become what Redick calls for.