Editor’s Note: Kurt Scott’s back again to deliver The Diss’ First Annual NBA Analyst awards. This is Kurt’s second piece on our humble little blog. As always, you can follow Kurt on Twitter here.
It’s NBA awards season. And coming off a condensed season that has asked more of all of us — analysts, fans, and players to slightly varying degrees — we would be remiss if we didn’t take this opportunity to honor the best of talking head-dom, as well as a few efforts that fell short.
So here they are:
The 2011-2012 NBA Analyst Awards
Best Newcomer: Dennis Scott
This is Scott’s second year with NBA TV, but he’s truly come into his own this season as a multi-format performer. Besides being cooler than a fan, he has a knack for balancing his goofy sense of humor with real basketball insight without forcing the issue with either, and he’s equally comfortable on NBA Gametime and Fantasy Insider (the latter being the real testament to his preparation).
If you consider NBA TV the minor leagues to TNT’s “Big Show”, the temptation to make your mark and get called-up must be considerable. But whatever 3-D’s career ambition may be, he won’t act outside of himself to get to the next level, which is to be admired.
Honorable Mention: Rex Chapman
The (MUCH) Less is More Award: Shaquille O’Neal
A friend of mine — and by friend I mean a dude from a RealGM message board whose real name I’ll never know — put it best a few weeks back: “I used to look forward to watching NBA TV on Friday mornings when they replayed the previous night’s Inside the NBA. Now, I get resentful that I can’t watch the far superior Gametime. That’s the Shaq effect.” Indeed.
Shaq has been killed on virtually every NBA fan forum imaginable for his petty, ham-fisted performances on Inside, and rightly so. But let’s face facts: he isn’t going anywhere until he wants to. So, with an eye toward improvement, here are several habits you’d do well to break, Mr. O’Neal, if you want to earn the respect (or tolerance) of the NBA faithful:
1. Lose the “Shaq Voice”. We’ve all experimented with a bad schtick at some point or another. But because most of us aren’t multi-millionaires or the most dominant center of all time, someone has probably told us to cut it out. In Shaq’s case, though, the bit where he overenunciates his consonants while raising his voice to an obnoxious volume (and repeats himself when the joke doesn’t hit home the first time) has lived on, to the annoyance of his viewership who cringe not just at the voice itself but at the tendency of his fellow analysts (ahem, Greg Anthony — more on you later) to laugh through it.
2. Tone Down the Agendas.
In fairness, Shaq has come a long way on this since the beginning of the season when the casual observer might have guessed that Dwight Howard had eaten his children. He is still a legacy-campaigner
, and will always be a legacy-campaigner, so the key, here, is limit his pot-shots at current and former players to an acceptable level. Like say four or five times a segment.
Eliminate those habits and what you’ll have left won’t be a perfect or even good analyst, just one that isn’t sinking the best ship in the fleet.
Honorable Mention: No one. Here, as in so many realms, Shaq is peerless.
The Heir to the Throne Award: Jalen Rose
If you haven’t noticed that Jalen Rose is coming on like a boss, you haven’t been paying attention. An insightful presence on ESPN’s NBA Coast to Coast
for the last several seasons, he’s also put together a string of successful hits on SportsCenter,
the NBA Today
podcast, and, most notably, First Take,
where he took Skip Bayless to task for embellishing his high school basketball “career”.
And that’s before you get to his excellent turn as documentary subject in ESPN’s The Fab 5.
Almost more impressive than his candor in the film was his willingess to take on all corners after it aired. Regardless of which side you came down on, his much publicized kerfuffle with Grant Hill over the perception of Duke players in the 90′s
showed Rose to be a rarity in basketball commentary: a voice with both the seriousness of purpose to take on the game’s heavy issues, as well as the juice among his peers to make that voice heard.
Honorable Mention: Fittingly, former Fab 5 teammate Chris Webber.
The “Mr. Conventional Wisdom” Award: Magic Johnson
Maybe some of us need reminding that Kobe should get Bynum and Gasol the ball or that Miami is a better team when LeBron takes over in the fourth. But I’ll go out on a limb and say those bases are covered. And so it’d be awfully nice if someone — a producer, an analyst, a dear friend — convinced Magic to tap into the knowledge that made him the best floor general of all time. Until then, he’ll remain the biggest reason why the ABC halftime show is the most staid studio team covering the game today.
Honorable Mention: Sam Mitchell
The Company You Keep Award: Greg Anthony
There are two Greg Anthony’s.
Good Greg Anthony appears alongside Ernie Johnson and Chris Webber on NBA TV’s Fan Night (or, “Nerd Night plus C-Webb”, according to Barkley). He’s bright. He’s more comfortable in his skin than you’d expect (I’d thought him something of a twerp in his playing days). And he was involved in the most hammy moment the program’s seen since Webber, Ahmad Rashad and Gary Payton held it down.
We like Good Greg Antony and hope his contract gets picked up for many seasons to come, so long as there’s a clause written-in to exclude…
Bad Greg Anthony. Wednesday Night Greg Anthony, who shamelessly provides the laugh track to Shaq’s worst jokes, most notably during the “Shaqtin the Fool” segment. Which should be subject to fine, in my opinion, like feeding nuisance animals in public parks. And while I’m sure Anthony’s encouragement isn’t what’s stopping Shaq from reining it in a little, I’d pay good money to find out.
The “Don’t Lose This Guy’s Number” Award: Brevin Knight
Knight only appeared on Gametime for a couple Saturday nights in February but killed it in his limited opportunity. He dissected plays from a point guard’s perspective while blending seamlessly with the stylings of Brent Barry and Rick Kamla. Only so much can be said for a guy we saw for a combined two hours, but Knight is an intellect and a gentleman, that much is clear. And we can only hope the door has been left open for his return — even if it means bumping a less deserving former player (of which there’s no shortage) from a studio rotation.
The “Fine, You’re Good, I Admit It” Award: Brent Barry
Why is it necessary to praise Brent Barry through gritted teeth? Well, he’s a Barry
, for starters. He also oozes too cool for school,
not the most endearing quality in someone who’s paid to watch basketball and offer his opinion. But, to his credit, he’s always prepared, quick on the draw, and has a self-deprecating streak that goes a long way toward balancing his “above it all” swag. Besides, you have to give a guy a little room to be cocky when he’s busted this
out on national television.
Honorable Mention: Jon Barry, naturally.
The MVP: Charles Barkley
You love Chuck and I love Chuck so I won’t dwell on why our favorite Emmy-winner is the best thing going in NBA television. Instead, let’s talk about what’s changed since he joined TNT in 2000: you can’t mess with this guy like you used to.
He’s gotten too good. For everything Kenny, EG and Shaq throw at him, he now has a biting response. Which makes sense considering that in his twelve-year analyst career he’s heard every barb about his weight
, rap sheet
, country roots
and lack of rings
imaginable. He’s now an expert at using his natural wit to ping-pong those tried and true slights back in the direction of his adversaries. And that makes for higher entertainment than when he was strictly on the receiving end.
Of course, they’re all very good friends on the Inside set, and the best thing about Charles is his ability to take a joke. Now that he’s complemented his good nature with a few well-grounded opinions (along with some dead-wrong ones), he’s become the undisputed crown jewel of NBA broadcasting.