"Tough" NBA players of the 80's aren't responding well to 2020 scrutiny

Chicago Bulls' Pete Myers (R) confronts Bimbo Cole

Chicago Bulls' Pete Myers (R) confronts Bimbo Cole

Wait, aren't these the big, bad, tough guys? Aren't they from the era Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and LeBron James never would've thrived in? Don't 80's-era players all sit around and laugh when they hear about flopping, burner accounts and what NBA commissioner Adam Silver called a "time of anxiety" for his players?

I wanted to believe so bad in that era. What's the old saying? "Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times."

What kind of men does a 24-hour news cycle make? Sensitive ones, apparently. Two of the main characters in "The Last Dance," a 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan and his time with the Chicago Bulls, are now participating in the same NBA beef which has typecast the league's modern day players as soft.

Ex-Bulls center Horace Grant ripped the documentary, and called Michael Jordan a lying snitch. Scottie Pippen is "wounded and disappointed by his portrayal," according to ESPN's Jackie MacMullen. I'll leave Scottie Burrell out of this.

"The Last Dance" was positioned perfectly for ratings, and scrutiny, as it scratched a sport-less itch left by months of ceased operations by each of the four major American sports leagues. It gave us a glimpse into the NBA world in the 80s and 90s, and now it's giving us a glimpse into how Jordan-era superstars would've reacted to our new 24-hour news cycle.

There are dozens of national sports radio shows. Hundreds of hours of sports-talk TV shows. Thousands of sportswriters. They're all starved for narratives. If sports were happening, LeBron would lead most national segments or columns, on most days, as he has during basketball season each of the last ten years. If it's not him, it's Kevin Durant, Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook. Producers and editors have debate topics down to a science, the same way McDonald's knows the perfect salt-sugar-fat-protein ratios to keep you addicted. Is Kevin Durant too sensitive? Is LeBron clutch? Is Westbrook a ballhawk? Is Steph Curry's wife too involved? Rinse and repeat, five days a week.

My theory is that this level of coverage is totally unnatural, the same way McDonald's levels of calories are. If McDonald's clogs our arteries, imagine the mental side-effects of watching Stephen A. Smith have a new opinion about you every morning.

This became evident when Twitter came along, and we started getting unadulterated thoughts from celebrities - without the advice of publicists. Don Lemon once got in a spat with Jonah Hill because Hill didn't say "hi" well enough at an airport. Coincidentally, the more famous of the two came out looking more sane. There is something twisted that happens to a human brain when it's showered with constant attention and it only has to solve first-world problems. Cue, Joaquin Phoenix's cow's milk rant.

He's a method actor coming off "The Joker," cut him a break.

2000's-era NBA players are miniature versions of Hollywood celebrities. We've built the sports version of The View, Ryan Seacrest and TMZ. Men consume "First Take" like women consume "The Kardashians." For the last five weeks, all we've had to throw into the media machine is Dana White yelling at NYT reporters, quasi-comeback plans for leagues and "The Last Dance" - the latter of which out-rated the former by a long shot.

So, we're sowing narratives around Pippen and Grant the way we would've when they played, and they're cracking under the pressure. What's that again about the hand check era?

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