Three-time Super Bowl champ and “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” Fox Sports 1 talk show co-host Shannon Sharpe is a huge fan of LeBron James but not quite a fan of the NBA baller’s latest take on the playoffs.
James and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates were booted from the first round of the Western Conference playoffs in six games by the Phoenix Suns. Since then James has had nothing but time to reflect on his season and time to share his take on an NBA playoffs that continues to be plagued by one player injury after the next.
On June 16 the four-time NBA champ squarely placed the blame for the mounting list of injuries and lackluster playoff performances on the league. “They all didn’t wanna listen to me about the start of the season. I knew exactly what would happen. I only wanted to protect the well being of the players which ultimately is the PRODUCT & BENEFIT of OUR GAME! These injuries isn’t just “PART OF THE GAME”. It’s the lack of PURE,” tweeted James. He went on to lament himself an aficionado on rest and recovery — which may not be all too farfetched considering he spends roughly $1.5 million yearly to keep his body performance-ready. Even that money did not spare James from suffering a high ankle sprain that kept him off the court for seven games.
But, as Sharpe put it, the players are also to blame for their injuries.
“Look, the NBA wanted to recoup some money, they was in a pandemic and lost money,” Sharpe told TMZ Sports while making his way through Los Angles International Airport last week. “The players wanted to get those paychecks. They couldn’t play without the NBA and the NBA PA [Players Association] agreeing, so everybody’s equally culpable because they needed the money and the players wanted the paycheck. It is what it is.”
The league’s bubble season ended in October with the Lakers winning their 17th championship. That same month the NBA’s Board of Governors proposed starting the 2021 season in December, just ahead of Christmas, and ending just in time for the July Olympics. The players union approved the Dec. 22, 2020, start date. The ever-vocal James expressed his dismay with the decision, citing that teams where veterans outnumber rookies would be a cause for concern down the line.
Later in his interview, Sharpe said the situation was unfortunate, but still he could not side with his favorite player in the league. “Some of the bigger-named guys are getting injured, but, and I can see it, there is no way to definitively tell, but I do believe a condensed season, playing three games every other week, because the more rigorous the sport the more rest you need. To try to play three games, basically, you trying to get 72 games in two-and-a-half, three months, that’s asking an awful lot of the guys.”
The league also rebutted James’ claims. NBA spokesperson Mike Bass told The New York Times, “Injury rates were virtually the same this season as they were during 2019-20 while starter-level and All-Star players missed games due to injury at similar rates as the last three seasons. While injuries are an unfortunate reality of our game, we recognize the enormous sacrifices NBA players and teams have made to play through this pandemic.”
“I mean, it’s easy to say that, but did they have the same high-profile injuries?” questioned Sharpe. He continued, “The NBA is a superstar-driven league, the fifth guy on the bench, the thirteenth guy on the bench, nobody cares if he’s injured. Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, people care about those guys. Sports is about superstars. Superstars drive sports.”