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Stephen A calls out LeBron for being the "ringleader of players complaining"

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Paul George knows a thing or two about narrative building. George recently said he's the most scrutinized player in the NBA, portraying himself as a victim of an unexplainable level of criticism. Shockingly, Playoff P didn't feel the need to back his position up with any facts. That triggered Charles Barkley to call out everyone blowing their own horn.

“These dudes man. Every great player gets criticised. I don’t want to hear that bull(crap). I’ve gotten criticized because I hadn’t won a championship. Michael Jordan before he won a championship, ‘Yeah, he can’t win.’ Shaq, Kobe, everybody got criticized. This false narrative, I hear these jackasses on television talking about George getting scrutinized more than other people. Give me a freakin’ break!”

Shaquille O’Neal, CNBC

Where does all this complaining come from? As always, players look to the best amongst them for leadership, good or bad. Giannis going down marked yet another injury to what seems to be a record number of players going down. Between player health and money, all parties involved, including the players, went for the money. It was a legitimate choice with predictable consequences. Yet LeBron James decided to act like he isn't the single most influential person in the NBA.

As we know, this is an era of narratives. LeBron has to build a story around his first-round exit, and he's obviously going with "wasn't just me, everyone broke down because of the most difficult two-season period in NBA history." Shaq reminded LeBron that not everything is about him.

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For someone who wants "his damn respect," LeBron is rarely criticized in mainstream media outlets, particularly business partners such as ESPN. The most important issues, such as LeBron's hypocrisy when it came to Daryl Morey and his tweet are followed by deafening silence at outlets such as the worldwide leader. But, once in a while, someone does go after LeBron. This time it was Stephen A. 

“We can't even analyze basketball anymore without dudes being caught up in their feelings. ... And who's the ring leader with that stuff? It's LeBron. Because LeBron, he can drop 50, he can drop 60, and we all know we love and respect this phenomenal role model that is LeBron James. But let's call a spade a spade. He can drop 60, you can praise him till the cows come home, he's got a big smile on his face and he'll talk with the media for hours. But, let him have a bad game and you point that out [and LeBron goes into] 'You know I'm just trying to be a role model to the kids out there, I'm a champion in life. I came from Akron' WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH THE FACT YOU STRUGGLED IN THIS GAME?!?!?"

Stephen A. Smith, ESPN

What we are seeing are unintended consequences of player empowerment. It gave players the influence to cherry-pick their media coverage, only give interviews to friendly reporters and use social media to speak "their truth." As a result, we are seeing an era of thin-skinned players who can't take anything on the chin and see an attack on their entire identity if you call them out on a single thing. 

I get it when teenagers act like it, but professionals paid millions of dollars? Luckily, we still have legends of the game like Shaq and Chuck to give them a reality check and people with a large rach like Stephen A. Smith to support that reality check. We love this game, but that doesn't mean we have to think the players playing it are perfect. 

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