Dame Lillard fell into the spider's web first. Matt Barnes soon followed suit. Now Skip Bayless has two athletes caught in his sticky tentacles and is driving viewership because of it. Good news him, bad news us. He's got us all right where he wants us and won't stop hot-taking until the ratings go down. Don't expect that for at least another week.
Throughout his career on television, Bayless has followed the same script: Call out superstar player on television for not being clutch, try to incite said player on social media, hope they or another athlete defend his target, challenge them to a debate, and then follow up with further hot takes whether they engage or not.
It's worked with LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers. He's ripped them both so many times on TV they both eventually responded to the criticism and Bayless hasn't let up since. Now Lillard has followed suit, saying Bayless is "a joke" on Twitter and calling him out for backtracking on a previous conversation they had. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Bayless wanted.
By responding to Bayless and admitting they had a phone conversation, Lillard validated Bayless as a voice of power in sports that athletes listen to. That's all Bayless needed to launch a continued assault at Lillard both on social media and his show with Shannon Sharpe, Undisputed. The results speak for themselves.
Interactions on videos and tweets where Skip rants about Lillard, both on his personal account and on Undisputed's accounts, interaction is far higher. On YouTube, Undisputed averages around 484K video views when Bayless "reacts" to a Lillard performance. On other videos, they average around 180-190K views. On his Twitter account, Bayless gets thousands of retweets and comments on Lillard posts. Non-Lillard posts get hundreds.
Even better for Bayless, with the Blazers playing the Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, he has two targets on opposite teams he can now vilify when their team loses. Lillard misses a key shot in the fourth quarter and the Blazers lose? He's not clutch. LeBron passes the ball instead of taking a potential game-winning shot? He's afraid of the big moment. Insert any scenario in there and Bayless has an easy target to blame and rant about on Undisputed. And as mentioned, the viewership and social interaction numbers back him up.
As for Matt Barnes, he recently defended Lillard on social media, saying Bayless should "cut the bulls*** out" in a profanity-laced attack. Barnes has his own podcast now, called "All the Smoke", so perhaps he was trying to attach himself to this argument and garner attention to his own venture. But either way, he again validated Skip as a voice of power, adding more fuel to his raging fire.
It's clear how Skip Bayless operates. Hell, a lot of Twitter trolls do the same. It's a tried and true method to gain attention. But unfortunately for all of us who cover sports media, we can now expect to hear Bayless rant about Lillard and LeBron daily until their series is over. He's got the ammunition, he's got the validation, and he's got people talking about him. That's what he wanted and Lillard played right into his trap.