While rivalries are a key are part of professional sports, most of them exist between the lines. That reality, however, hasn’t stopped Skip Bayless from needling LeBron James over the years. Although you could argue there isn’t a real rivalry at play — the Fox Sports pundit could simply be trying to make headlines, and LeBron doesn’t bother responding — Skip’s stance has simply become part of the pop-cultural landscape. If King James does something, you can assume there will be a critical tweet about it before too long.
After Game 1 of the NBA Finals, though, Bayless adopted a different position. He took to Twiter and, in a move that shocked the online basketball world, admitted that he missed LeBron.
Skip Bayless has never been afraid to take shots at LeBron James
As arguably the most famous player in the modern NBA, LeBron James has had to absorb his fair share of slings and arrows over the years. While the source of that hate has been spread around thanks to the rise of social media, a good amount of that criticism has come from Skip Bayless.
If you’ve ever watched Undisputed or followed its co-host on Twitter, then you’re probably fairly familiar with the way things work. While poor performance opens up any player, especially a star, to criticism, Bayless doesn’t limit his targets to on-court mistakes. During the 2020-21 NBA season alone, he suggested that King James could be preparing to use his ankle injury as an excuse and argued that his game-winning shot against the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament was “lucky” rather than clutch.
Although he has admittedly complimented James on a few occasions, Bayless’ feelings about LeBron have become a bit of a meme. On one occasion, for example, he lost a bet GQ writer Mark Anthony Green and, instead of coughing up some cash, had to say 10 nice things about the LA Lakers star.
Skip Bayless tells the world that he misses LeBron James
On Tuesday, July 6, the 2021 NBA Finals tipped off in Phoenix. While the majority of the basketball world was focused on the Suns and the Bucks — perhaps the Rachel Nicols saga stole some of the spotlight — Bayless’ mind was focused on something else.
As usual, Bayless fired off a handful of tweets throughout the game, discussing Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul, and the Bucks’ defensive struggles. Shortly after the contest ended, though, he tweeted out three simple words that sent shockwaves across NBA Twitter: “I miss LeBron.”
Since he didn’t provide any additional context, it’s not 100% clear exactly what the FS1 host was getting at. Did he feel Game 1 was lacking some star power? For all his criticism of LeBron, does Bayless enjoy watching him on the big stage? Was Skip simply trolling, trying to take advantage of post-game social media rush to draw some eyeballs his way? The world may never know.
Regardless of his intentions, though, Bayless did catch the attention of basketball and. As you might assume, his tweet’s replies were filled with people wondering if he was hacked, suggestions of sarcasm, and, of course, plenty of jokes regarding LeBron’s superiority.
“I knew you would Skip, what a grown up thing to admit,” actor Stan Shaw tweeted in reply. “For once, I’m proud of you. Wow Skip; if you can grow, there’s hope for the world! Now don’t blow it!” On the opposite side of the spectrum, NBC Sports’ Kerith Burke shot a tweet Bayless’ way reading, “Congrats on being the first person to be hacked when it’s actually true.”
Even with small market teams in the NBA Finals, storylines abound
If we give Bayless the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant that he missed the star power of LeBron James in the NBA Finals, he wouldn’t be the first to share that sentiment. Earlier in the playoffs, there was plenty of discussion about market sizes, potential ratings, and how the casual basketball fan would feel about a championship series that didn’t feature any of the league’s blue-blooded franchises.
With that being said, though, the 2021 NBA Finals can still provide a spectacle worth watching. While there might not be an all-encompassing global star like LeBron on the court, there are still plenty of storylines to follow. On the Buck side of things, the club kept Giannis under contract by promising to build a legitimate contender around him. Can they go all the way mere months after agreeing to that long-term extension? If they fall short, will it prompt a coaching change or some roster moves in an attempt to get over the hump?
From the Suns’ side of things, Chris Paul is at the center of everything. Despite having a decorated career, the guard hadn’t even appeared in the NBA Finals before Tuesday night, let alone lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Given his status as one of the game’s overall good guys, plus his status as a respected veteran in a young locker room, everyone in the desert wants to get CP3 a ring.
If you’re a LeBron James fan (or, in Bayless’ case, hater), it can feel a bit anticlimactic to see an NBA Finals without the game’s biggest star. His absence, however, doesn’t invalidate an entire series. Sometimes, it can be fun to sit back and simply enjoy the show.