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Kobe And Michael: A Peerless Brotherhood

Another public eulogy will serve to remind that Bryant, not LeBron James, came closest to Jordan’s force field, which should be obvious after Jordan presents his late friend for Hall of Fame enshrinement.

Jay Mariotti

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The winds were still. Kobe Bryant was staying In Los Angeles, no longer demanding a trade, quieting the outrage that had turned him into a national diva. So it stunned me when he appeared in the Lakers’ locker room, inside Chicago’s United Center on a winter’s night, and wanted to talk about what almost had happened months earlier.

He very nearly was traded to the Bulls. In fact, he and his wife had toured the suburbs in search of real estate and schools for their kids, including a one-year-old daughter named Gianna. Bryant confirmed all of this and more, which couldn’t have pleased coach Phil Jackson and the team brass, but his agenda was clear. He continued to be obsessed with his personal basketball Jesus, the legend whose statue was outside the building, and he seemed a bit wistful that he’d never play home games in the House That Michael Jordan Built.

Statue of Michael Jordan - Wikipedia

You know how his Happily Ever After went. Pacified by the acquisition of Pau Gasol, Bryant calmed down and won two more championships — without Shaquille O’Neal — before the Lakers unraveled amid ownership upheaval and embarrassing internal soap operas. Those titles, his fourth and fifth, validated what had become obvious in his first 15 NBA seasons: Kobe never could be Michael, just as no player could be Michael, but he was the one who came closest to penetrating the Jordan force field.

Not LeBron James.

Kobe Bean Bryant.

This weekend, we’ll hear more stories about Bryant and his maniacal quest to be like Mike, beginning as an 18-year-old rookie who stalked Jordan after games like a starstruck fan and took it literally when Jordan told him to “call me if you ever need anything.” Hopefully, the mood will be lighter than the last time Jordan spoke publicly about his “little brother,” at the memorial service days after Kobe and Gianna died in a helicopter crash. The tragedy happened 15 1/2 months ago, but it feels like forever, foreshadowing a global pandemic in a double-whammy that made us ask what kind of world we’re living in. We had little chance to mourn Bryant’s passing — to eulogize and absorb the horror — before we were buying masks, hoarding toilet paper and isolating ourselves from the evil COVID-19 droplets. A more complete celebration comes Saturday at a Connecticut casino — no MJ gambling jokes, please — where Bryant’s “big brother” presents him for enshrinement at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony.

No matter what Jordan says in his latest speech, it will remind us of the close relationship between the two most magnificent showmen, exquisite scorers and driven competitors in basketball history. We only can hope it stops the never-ending nonsense that James is the second-greatest or even greatest player ever. The other day, a TV debate show posed a question — will LeBron pass Michael if he wins another championship? — without acknowledging that the Lakers, with a brittle James and injury-addled Anthony Davis, might not survive the first play-in game next week. Millennials and Gen-Zers are stuck in generational biases, thinking the sport wasn’t played before LeBron arrived. Without dwelling on James’ erratic postseason record and other glitches, let’s just say the prominence of Jordan and Bryant as cutthroat combatants and tempestuous, roster-maximizing leaders should shine through the festivities.

“He used to call me, text me at 11:30, 2:30, 3 in the morning,” Jordan said at the eulogy. “At first, it was an aggravation, but then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know.” Kobe was the kid who “for whatever reason,” Jordan said, “always tended to get in your stuff. Your closet, your shoes, everything. It was a nuisance, if I can say that word. But that nuisance turned into love over a period of time.”

Said Bryant, recalling his MJ fixation on “The Last Dance” docuseries: “You can’t learn if you don’t ask. I know a lot of players were intimidated by him. I wasn’t intimidated. I think he understood my competitiveness. I think he was looking at my journey, too. It was a rough couple of years for me in coming to the league, because at the time, the league was so much older. It was not as young as it is today. Having teenagers or guys in their early 20s was not the norm. And so being an outsider from that standpoint, I think he wanted to provide a little help for me, a little direction for me.”

As Internet meme-ists know, Jordan is a cryer. His tears surely will appear again, only days after he revealed in an ESPN.com interview that he still looks at the final scroll of text messages left by Bryant on his phone. “He was just so happy,” Jordan said. “He was doing so well.” Unlike the younger days, when he would badger Jordan at all hours of the night, Bryant’s last text came early on the afternoon of Dec. 8, 2019. He wanted to thank his mentor for the box he’d been gifted: a bottle of tequila, courtesy of Jordan’s new brand.

Kobe Bryant memorial: Michael Jordan cracks 'crying Jordan' meme joke

Little brother: “This tequila is awesome.” 

Big brother: “Thank you, my brother.”

Little brother: “Yes, sir. Family good?”

Big brother: “All good. Yours?”

Little brother: “All good.”

Deciding to be devilish, Jordan told writer Jackie MacMullan that he poked fun at Bryant’s new career as daughter Gigi’s coach. “Coach Kobe??!” texted Jordan, who added “that little crying/laughing emoji.”

“Ah, back at you, man,” wrote Bryant. “Hey, coach, I’m sitting on the bench right now, and we’re blowing this team out. 45-8.”

How perfect, as Jordan pointed out, that one furious competitor would tell another that his daughter’s team was routing an opponent. Not that James isn’t fueled by similar urges, but today’s NBA canvas can be about social-media oneupsmanship as much as winning a title. There’s a reason the sports world is talking about Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook right now. They are fueled by the same inferno as Michael and Kobe.

I’ll never forget studying Bryant’s voice cadence when he was younger. My God, he was trying to sound just like Jordan, particularly obvious when both would say, “Most definitely.” After a while, he grew up and heeded Jordan’s advice about basketball, leadership and life in the public eye, which grew dark for Bryant when he was accused of sexual assault in Colorado. Just when it seems Jordan has been showered with every possible tribute, here’s one of the best: Not only did he make every one of his teammates better, he helped turn Kobe Bryant into the best version of himself.

Did Kobe Bryant Copy Michael Jordan? A Look Into the Lakers Superstar's NBA  Game - EssentiallySports

“Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I,” Jordan said. “I just wanted to talk about Kobe.”

He’ll have ample time Saturday. Other than Lou Gehrig’s retirement speech and Knute Rockne imploring his players to “win one for The Gipper,” sports offers no comparable moment. In death, there is life.

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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