Former Boston Celtics All-Star Paul Pierce managed to take a shot at LeBron James as he opened up about his firing from ESPN. During an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, Pierce hinted that ESPN encouraged analysts to talk frequently about James during coverage.
“I was done with them [ESPN], anyway,” Pierce noted. “It wasn’t a great fit. There’s a lot of stuff over there that you can’t say. And you have to talk about LeBron all the time.”
Pierce was let go by ESPN after the guard went viral for an NSFW Instagram Live video he filmed during a party. It is not unreasonable to think ESPN would want their talent to discuss James along with the other major superstars in the league.
Pierce Went Viral in 2020 for Leaving James off His List of Top-5 Players
This is not the first time Pierce has taken an indirect shot at James. Pierce went viral for other reasons after leaving James off his list of top-five NBA players of all-time in 2020. Pierce’s list included Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant, per CBS Sports.
“Look at the names that I said, Kareem, Magic, Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kobe, Bird,” Pierce explained on NBA Countdown on May 19, 2020. “These guys are all top-10 players who have either helped build up their organization or continue the tradition. We haven’t seen that from LeBron. He went and put together a team in Miami and, in some ways, he came back to Cleveland to put that team together. Then he went to the Lakers, where tradition has already been made, and that’s still to be continued. So, in saying that, that’s my argument.”
During another ESPN take, Pierce criticized current players for being “scared” of James. The longtime Celtics guard compared today’s players to his era when athletes “weren’t afraid of LeBron.”
“Players today are scared of LeBron,” Pierce noted in September 2020, per New York Post. “If they see LeBron standing in front of them, fear’s chasing. I know this. You know, my era is out of the league. We weren’t afraid of LeBron. These guys today, he strikes fear in these guys.”
Strauss: ESPN Coordinates Media Coverage Based on Agency Partnerships
Pierce’s comments about ESPN are not the only time the network has been criticized in recent weeks. NBA analyst Ethan Strauss, whose previous stops included The Athletic and ESPN, believes the media’s company’s ties to agencies influence their coverage.
“For example, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) happens to represent key media personalities at ESPN NBA, which was by design, and accomplished with the subtlety and tact of the Red Wedding,” Strauss noted on his site. “When you combine that nugget with knowledge of CAA’s influence over the New York Knicks (GM Leon Rose is a former CAA superagent, coach Tom Thibodeau is a CAA client), ESPN’s reports of Zion Williamson (CAA client) having an interest in joining the Knicks gets put in a different light. The way it’s presented to the consumer is the mere reporting on a rising star in New Orleans wanting to play in New York. You’re not supposed to know that ESPN wants this to happen because ESPN is CAA and CAA is ESPN, which means that CAA is the Knicks, meaning that the Knicks are ESPN.”