Mark Madden: Nikola Jokic showed his dominance, but LeBron grabbed the headlines

LeBron James got his butt off Nikola Jokic in the NBA Playoffs. Denver beat the Los Angeles Lakers in four straight games.

James, 38, was very good. Jokic, 28, was absolutely dominant.

But in the immediate aftermath, James pondered whether to retire. The media swarmed like piranhas. James’ future was the subject. Not Jokic’s brilliance.

James knew exactly what he was doing. It doesn’t take much to nudge the national media in James’ direction.

Nobody is allowed to be better than James. Jokic is clearly superior, as the MVPs of the previous two seasons point out. (He was runner-up to Joel Embiid this year.)

But winning doesn’t matter. Statistics don’t matter. James star. Every national sports show will set aside time to talk about James, coming up with stories if necessary. The perception is that viewers and listeners want to hear about James.

are they? Anyway, it’s self-fulfilling. It’s about the ratings, not what’s newsworthy.

It’s not just James. Anyone thinks he is a real star in any sport. Aaron Rodgers jumps to mind. Tom Brady for sure. (If Brady had only been dating Kim Kardashian as was rumored for a brief period, it would have been Armageddon for the media.)

Tiger Woods is the Babe Ruth of this trick. Or maybe Tiger Woods. Woods’ leg would prevent him from winning again. But his sporadic tournament appearances deserve shot-by-shot coverage, and he’s had a chance even though he doesn’t have any. Woods is constantly talked about before, during and after. Even when you miss the cut.

On ESPN, former NBA player JJ Reddick brought up why James is always discussed, and not Jokic. See Stephen A. Smith to Redick like he’s crazy.

When Alan Hahn suggested on ESPN that James was showing his age, former player Kendrick Perkins somewhat exploded: “You have to be really out of your mind if you think LeBron James showed us that father time is catching up.”

Or maybe Hahn noticed what James just did in Game 2 of the series vs. Denver, i.e. go 0-for-6 from a 3-point range while not wasting his time.

But James is not allowed to fail. This is the narrative.

By the way, James is still very good. Just not near Jokic quality. (Did you know James played hurt in the playoffs? He might need foot surgery. What a bravado! A very useful excuse for losing, too.)

James is great at manipulating the media, not least because he doesn’t have to try too hard.

But there is no way James is going to retire. He doesn’t think about it remotely.

James will definitely play with his son for at least one season. Bronny reaches the NBA in 2024-25 after the required season of college ball. Does anyone think James will quit before then? There is no chance.

James threw the hook, and he bit everyone.

BTW, it doesn’t matter if Bruni is good enough or not. He will play in the NBA.

I prefer sports talk that is about current events, not fueled by star power. Jokic is the story in the NBA. But temporarily, James is old news.

But James wouldn’t allow it. Nor will ESPN and their ilk.

Jokic will have to settle for winning the NBA championship. Maybe everyone will talk about Jokic after that.

Or maybe not.

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