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Monday, November 24, 2014

Why Anything Adrian Wojnarowski Writes About LeBron James Needs to be Ignored

Adrian Wojnarowski is an NBA reporter for Yahoo! Sports. He is one of the best information men in the business, frequently breaking stories before most other reporters. That makes him a valuable asset for Yahoo!, and an important person to follow on twitter. Seriously, just watch him and Marc J. Spears team up during the trade deadline and on draft day and watch the show. The information they uncover is impressive. Unfortunately, Wojnarowski is also allowed to write columns and cover games, and this is where one of his biggest weaknesses is on display.

There is not another prominent NBA writer with a more glaring anti-LeBron James agenda than Adrian Wojnarowski. He has demonstrated in his writing that his goal is to portray LeBron James negatively whenever possible, and there are serious consequences with that behavior that needs to be addressed.

It is one thing to dislike someone on a personal level and dissect their behavior off-the-court. Criticizing LeBron James for the way The Decision was executed is fair (something Woj did). In fact, it would be difficult to find someone who could defend it. But criticizing LeBron’s actual decision to leave Cleveland and saying it permanently ruined his legacy before he even played a game for Miami is unfair (here’s a lengthy explanation why).

It’s particularly unfair when a biased piece fueled by personal hatred ends up with over 16,000 facebook shares and 1,400 retweets. Criticizing LeBron’s play on the court because of a personal dislike based on what he does away from the court is not only unreasonable, it’s also irresponsible when you have a platform like Wojnarowski.

Wojnarowski has nearly 85,000 followers on twitter. His work is featured on Yahoo! Sports which is one of the most heavily trafficked sports sections on the web. What he writes has the potential to reach the front page of Yahoo!, which is arguably the most visited site on a daily basis. When you have that power and reach, you have the responsibility to write more fairly.

If you are going to criticize LeBron James the way Wojnarowski does, it’s only fair to let your readers know you have a personal bias against him. Anyone who read Wojnarowski’s Game 3 recap would walk away having read lines like this “LeBron James has clearly come to terms with the fact he’s slowly, surely been reduced to the sidekick in these NBA Finals. … Only his coaches will go back and study the tape of his work on the defensive end, and ultimately James will have to find his most satisfaction, his most comfort, in victory.”

Does that sound like an accurate portrayal of the game? First off, the language is absurdly charged. Woj writes that LeBron has been “reduced to the sidekick.” That’s the angry way of saying “Dallas is double-teaming LeBron so he’s passing to the team’s other superstar, Dwyane Wade.” Then he says that only the coaches will go back and study the tape and find comfort in victory. No Adrian, you can tell that story. You can review the tape and explain that LeBron passed the ball throughout the fourth quarter because it was the smartest play for the Heat. Anyone who bothers to do that (as I did), saw that while LeBron missed shots and did not play spectacularly, he passed because it was the best move for the team. Any rational NBA fan will agree Dwyane Wade one-on-one against Jason Kidd is the higher-percentage play instead of LeBron James against two defenders, as he was for all but one possession in the fourth.

There were several other story lines to be pursued following Game 3 — Mario Chalmers making big threes, Chris Bosh making the winning shot with one eye, the excellent perimeter defense by the Heat — and all would have more accurately reflected the play of the game than a story about how LeBron James is a “sidekick.”

Calling LeBron James a sidekick for passing to one of the other best players in the NBA when he has a significantly better match up is the smart play by all standards, not a cowardly one. But biased writers like Adrian Wojnarowski choose to focus on bashing LeBron not because it’s accurate, but because it’s the story he wants to tell. That’s what I’m talking about when I say he has an anti-LeBron James agenda.

Why does Wojnarowski have such an anti-LeBron agenda? He’ll probably tell you it’s because of LeBron’s immature behavior for Team USA basketball; it’s a reference he’s cited in his writing. I don’t know how accurate or inaccurate those tales may be, but I do know they don’t have anything to do with the way LeBron has been playing. Sadly, Wojnarowski embarrassingly allows his hate to come through in his writing and topic selection.

Additionally, Wojnarowski likely has a bias against LeBron James because he’s not in “LeBron’s camp.” Several writers portray their sources in positive light and anyone else they can’t get inside information on either negatively, or evenly. Why is that? Because they rely on sources for information, and having exclusive information is what gives a reporter value. Four days before LeBron announced he was going to Miami, Wojnarowski wrote that LeBron had decided to stay in Cleveland. His inability to get coveted information on the most important player in the NBA no doubt contributes to his biased agenda.

Wojnarowski is an excellent writer. He writes quite well, composing excellent sentences with powerful language. He does it better than I do. The only weapon I have against him is the ability to make a good point with supported details. And my point is two fold: One, hopefully anyone reading this will understand that anything Wojnarowski writes about LeBron has an extreme negative bias and results in unfair judgments of his basketball game. Two, maybe the sports editors at Yahoo! can take this reality into account and do one of two things to achieve more fairness: curb Wojnarowski’s anti-LeBron agenda by limiting his writing to reporting, or game stories where he writes about the actual game; or make sure that in every piece he writes about LeBron James he discloses his personal bias. At least that way the readers will understand they’re not getting fair coverage. That won’t make much of a difference given how malleable the minds of most readers are, but at least it’s the proper thing to do.

Ridiculing one of the top players in the NBA for being a good team player and helping his team win games is a poor and irresponsible message to disseminate, especially from one of the most powerful outlets in the country.



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