Ric Bucher Doesn’t Really Think Russell Westbrook Is Better Than Kevin Durant, Does He?
Before yesterday, I was pretty sure that ESPN had gotten into the business of making controversial statements simply to boost their ratings. After all, how else can you possibly explain Skip Bayless going on and on (and on!) about Tim Tebow for the last two months? I understand why they do it—and, hell, I’ll even go ahead and admit that I’ve been more entertained watching Bayless on First Take over the course of the last two months than I have the last two years—but, still: Is that really the best way to get people talking? I mean, it obviously works. At least, temporarily. But, is ESPN really going to make this a habit with other personalities, too?
From the looks of things, yes. And if they’re not, then how in the world do you describe the completely ridiculous NBA player rankings that Ric Bucher made during a SportsCenter segment yesterday? Bucher, who’s not exactly known for making statements that shake the world, started a huge backlash on Twitter when he unveiled his list of the top 7 players in the NBA and placed Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook ahead of his teammate Kevin Durant. Durant, of course, has been the leading scorer each of the past two NBA seasons. And to make matters worse, Bucher also put Westbrook seventh overall, meaning that KD didn’t even make the list. That’s right. Kevin Durant didn’t make a list of the top 7 players in the NBA right now!
Excuse my language, but it’s complete BS that ESPN allowed this to happen. On most peoples’ lists, Durant would have been top five, for sure. And on some, we’re willing to bet that he would have been top three and even number one overall. He’s revitalized the Thunder organization and given the franchise a new life. This year, he’s also put them in prime position to go to the 2012 NBA Finals by leading them to the best record in the Western Conference so far. Westbrook, on the other hand, is often cited as the reason that the Thunder haven’t made it further in the playoffs in past years. As a result, he probably wouldn’t even crack the top 25 on a lot of lists—let alone the top 7—and there’s absolutely no way he should have been listed above Durant on Bucher’s rankings.
So, what gives? Well, my guess is that ESPN is, once again, trying to stir up controversy by getting one of their talking heads to make an extremely bold statement about a player. Much like Bayless has done with Tebow, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to hear that ESPN asked Bucher to push the envelope a bit with his list. He very easily could have just released a predictable list that everyone would have agreed with and left it at that. No one would have blinked. Some people might have taken issue with Bucher picking, say, Kobe Bryant over LeBron James or James over Dwyane Wade, but Twitter wouldn’t have been turned upside down by it. Picking Westbrook over Durant and leaving one of the best young players in the league off the list altogether, though? Now, that will get some attention at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on a Thursday and get people to tune into SportsCenter to see what all the fuss is about!
For Bucher’s sake, I really hope he doesn’t seriously think Westbrook is better than or more important to the Thunder than Durant. Because if he does think that, I don’t think I can ever watch an NBA show featuring Bucher again. But I’m also not sure how I feel about Bucher making crazy statements just for attention. Do I get it? Yes. As I said, I’ve enjoyed watching Bayless for the last couple of months and he’s done the same thing with Tebow. But I think one Skip Bayless is enough for ESPN. So let’s hope Bucher backs off his statement, amends his list at a later date, and gets this thing right. Otherwise, he might have lost a whole bunch of viewers. And, for what? An afternoon of ratings? You’re better than that, man. So, please, start acting like it again.