In a stunning turn of events, I actually don't really disagree with some parts of what Rich Paul is saying in that clip. Growing up in the internet age as a professional athlete is certainly different from the previous generation. When you're an elite talent like LeBron, things are magnified to a level that we normal people can't really comprehend. I'm old enough to remember what it was like when LeBron broke onto the scene and it's hard to really explain it unless you lived it. Given today's prospects are all over the internet, everyone has a mixtape, and the social media aspect is just part of life, none of that existed when it came to LeBron. His game against Melo being on ESPN was a HUGE deal, something now that happens all the time.
To me, part of what's made LeBron's career so impressive. Everything he did gets talked about, scrutinized, and debated, it has to be exhausting. To go 20+ years and never have a scandal (that we know of) is pretty damn impressive. Think of how long being in the spotlight since 2003 must feel like.
At the same time, as with everything, perspective is important. For example, LeBron doesn't exactly deal with the same level of scrutiny as say, Bill Russell or Kareem did. Given their NBA accomplishments, I'd say they handled that pretty damn well. Just because Twitter didn't exist back then doesn't mean there weren't hurdles for players. But let's keep this to MJ since that's where Rich Paul went.
Is LeBron the first player to deal with a 24/7 mass hysteria type of coverage no matter what he does? I would say no. And while MJ himself has admitted that he may not have been able to survive in this current Twitter era
“Tiger [Woods] played at his peak somewhere toward the end of my career. Then, what changed from that time-frame to now is social media – Twitter and all those types of things,” Jordan said. “And that has invaded the personalities and personal time of individuals.
“It’s to the point where some people have been able to utilise it to their financial gain and things of that nature. But for someone like myself – and this is what Tiger deals with – I don’t know if I could’ve survived in this Twitter [era], where you don’t have the privacy that you’d want and what seems to be very innocent can always be misinterpreted.”
we all saw The Last Dance. MJ and the Bulls may have well been the Beatles. I think it's fair to suggest that MJ dealt with his fair share of criticism and media bullshit during the height of his era. I mean you tell me, does this not seem pretty close to what someone like LeBron deals with in today's world?
Of course one of the main differences is the troll aspect part of the Internet age. Perhaps that's what Paul was talking about. He basically mentioned Skip Bayless without saying the actual name.
So while I do think there's some legitimacy to certain aspects of what Rich Paul is trying to suggest, it's also a two way street. Are we to believe there's no work done by the media to help LeBron and maybe shape his narrative? I mean, Klutch guys are everywhere. The same vehicle that Paul is trying to argue makes LeBron's path more difficult also helps him. The same would obviously be true if MJ played today. But that's just a product of the times above anything else.
If this is meant to serve as another reason why LeBron might be the actual GOAT over MJ, to me that's coming from a side that knows they probably aren't the GOAT based on the actual basketball reasons, so they have to look outside the lines in an effort to boost their case. Just keep this line of thinking going. What about someone like Zion or Wembanyama? Every since thing they do is magnified. They both deal with a crazy amount of haters and trolls no matter what they do. So in 20 years if they end up having HOF careers, is that more impressive than LeBron? See how silly that is?
So in a weird way, Rich Paul makes sense while making no sense all at the same time. Like most topics when it comes to LeBron, there's some legitimacy in what he's saying, but he took it a little too far in an attempt to stack up against MJ.
Thankfully, NBA training camp is under a month away so eventually we'll all be able to focus on actual basketball again. I simply cannot wait.