His sickly shrieks are still echoing through a barren Staples Center, up near the championship banners and retired jerseys. And the way his body tumbled off the floor, in a series of revolutions, as he clutched his wounded right leg — it almost seemed LeBron James was trying to sell us, as actors do, that this was a high-drama moment in the twilight of his incomparable career.
Was it the famous final scene? The one that signals, after 18 seasons and 1,566 NBA games, that he no longer can win titles?
“I haven’t seen him scream and scowl like that probably ever,” teammate Kyle Kuzma said.
“We do forget,” said Montrezl Harrell, “that he’s human.”
If we’ve learned through time to never doubt James’ resolve, as an athlete and an activist and a budding Hollywood mogul, we also know that his body can’t take much more pain and suffering. Though his triumphant performance in bubble-wrapped isolation last season was unforgettable, this fact remains: His time with the Lakers otherwise has been defined by health setbacks. Two years ago, a groin injury sabotaged a postseason berth. Now, just as he was making an energized run for a fifth MVP award, James is sidelined indefinitely with what is being called a high ankle sprain … but looked much worse. Before limping through the tunnel, he angrily knocked over a chair.
Is this a man who expects to be holding a fifth trophy this summer? Or one already painting himself as an aging underdog in his next playoff movie?
“Nothing angers and saddens me more than not being available to and for my teammates! I’m hurt inside and out right now,” James tweeted. “The road back from recovery begins now. Back soon like I never left.”
As he escapes to his private training cave until further notice, the potential ramifications of the injury can’t be understated. With All-Star wingman Anthony Davis dealing with more injuries himself — he has missed the last 15 games with a calf strain and tendinosis in his right leg — a repeat championship is in peril. Remember, the Lakers didn’t finish their title march in the Disney World Bubble until Oct. 11, then had only a few weeks to rest before training camp. James balked and suggested the league office wasn’t forthright with him about the quick turnaround, then oddly decided to become an Ironman and play all but one of the team’s first 42 games.
Was it a mistake to not prioritize strategic rest and tender, loving care for his 36-year-old bones? If so, it might ultimately damage James in his ongoing legacy quest. The Greatest Of All Time debate, which skewed heavily toward Michael Jordan after his grandeur was highlighted in last spring’s “The Last Dance” docuseries, was interrupted by James’ magnificent work in Orlando, when he won a pandemic title, fueled the Black Lives Matter movement and convinced a fair share of voters not to re-elect Donald Trump. A repeat title would be James’ fifth, one shy of Jordan’s total. Suddenly, the push for LeBron would heighten among his supporters, mostly millennials and Gen-Zers who don’t grasp the entirety of Jordan’s legacy.
But if James is finished winning hardware, there is no argument — at least from an all-basketball, politics-excluded viewpoint. And even if he does recover enough to make a spirited playoff return, it’s possible the Lakers can’t match the competition anyway. The Western Conference, still a beast, is defined by the firepower and two-way dominance of the Utah Jazz and the rise of the Phoenix Suns, who have Chris Paul playing Yoda to Devin Booker. Aren’t the Clippers now seeing light in Los Angeles, where they were mocked after a playoff collapse? Conceivably, the Lakers could slip to as low as sixth in the standings, and while homecourt advantage won’t exist in a COVID-guarded postseason, it will be hell surviving the West — let alone winning the Finals, where the Brooklyn Nets could await as they ride new MVP frontrunner James Harden in the regular season while safeguarding Kevin Durant for the playoffs.
When NBA commissioner Adam Silver insisted on launching this season in time for the Christmas TV money bonanza, did he consider the wear and tear on the superstars he so desperately needs? That his decision might prove counterproductive? Along with James, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid was angling for an MVP award before exiting with a bone bruise in his left knee. A Lakers-Sixers matchup in the Finals would have been a dream, a blast from the past.
Now, imagine a Utah-Milwaukee scrum. Basketball purists might love Rudy Gobert trying to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo, but for a league bruised by a 51-percent ratings decline for the 2020 Finals, that isn’t the marketing solution.
In their frustration, some Lakers players are making too big a stink about a fluky circumstance. Atlanta’s Solomon Hill fell into James while pursuing a loose ball, causing his ankle to roll awkwardly. “That’s an unnecessary play to dive in the leg like that,” Dennis Schroder said.
“A guy dove for a loose ball, took his leg out from up under him,” Harrell said. “I really don’t feel like it was one of those loose-ball plays. He had to go through his leg to get the ball, man. He was turned sideways. The ball was behind him. I mean, you’re jumping at an angle, going across this way, I mean, I don’t know how you feel that’s a loose ball.”
Truth is, they should be asking why James was in uniform to begin with. After reluctantly participating in a forced All-Star Game, he should have used the dog days to sit. No one is watching the NBA, anyway, as March Madness occupies the calendar. But James was starting to smell his first MVP award since 2013 — an absurdly long lapse — and the Lakers had been lobbying heavily for him as recently as last week.
“Bron should have been the MVP at least eight, nine, 10 times,” Kuzma said. “Everybody knows that.”
Said coach Frank Vogel, who frequently refers to James as the greatest player ever: “It’s a mistake on the voters’ part to go season after season without voting the best player in the league MVP. That’s the simplest way to put it. There’s been other players that have been deserving, but he’s been the best player in the league for as long as I can remember — maybe since his second, third year in the league. It’s just one of those things that’s unfortunate. It’s not right. And he should get it this year. He’s doing it every night, and no one is as deserving.”
The support prompted James to reverse his stance of recent seasons. Yes, he said just the other day, the MVP matters to him.
“It is something. It means something, for sure,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and say it doesn’t mean anything to me. And for me to be able to win it a few times in my career is always been special. And being in the running, hearing my name with some of the best basketball players in the league this year again, it would mean a lot. At my age, what I’m able to do, what I’ve been doing this whole season, what I bring to the table every single night on both sides of the floor. It would mean an unbelievable thing for me, especially at this point in my career. So, we just see where the chips may lay.”
Should he have more MVP trophies at this point?
“I should have more than four, I believe,” he said.
But in the biggest context of G.O.A.T. wars, another MVP award means little compared to a fifth championship. If LeBron James never wins again — and I’m beginning to think he will not — what a shame that his reign ended against the Hawks on a March afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, with few in the building and a space on the wall for a new banner that likely won’t be hung.
Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call
“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”
I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.
The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.
Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.
Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.
We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.
I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.
You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.
People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.
How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.
Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.
If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.
In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.
Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.
What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.
Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!
“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”
Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?
Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.
To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:
#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?
#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?
#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?
If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!
Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.
Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:
#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.
#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.
#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.
#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.
#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.
Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!
Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas
“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”
Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?
Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!
One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.
Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.
There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.
Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.
I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.
Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.
It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?
Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.
If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.
Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.
A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.
“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.
We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.
As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.
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