With the Suns (suprisingly) trading for Shaquille O’Neal yesterday, it got me thinking. There are athletes of all races who are universally despised by members of the media for various reasons. Barry Bonds is the first to come to mind. For years, he’s been considered a jerk and asshole and, as a result, has not been giving a pass on his transgressions — alleged steroid use, domestic issues, etc.
On the flipside, there are certain athletes who, in the eyes of the media, can do no wrong. Maybe it’s because they have been engaging and charismatic with the media, thus giving certain writers scoops, good quotes and basically just the time of day. Or, it could be that, because of the enormous celebrity that surrounds a particular athlete (Michael Jordan) some media are afraid to criticize or expose them in fear of the athlete shutting them out.
So again, it got me thinking — what black/minority athlete is the most beloved among the sports media.
Here are the five I came up with.
1. Charles Barkley — No other athlete, black or white, can speak his mind and not worry about repercussions as Barkley can. The former NBA All-Star, now a fixture on TNT’s NBA studio show is perhaps the most candid “analyst” I can think of and because of his candor, he’s always called upon to be an “expert” on various topics, not matter the sport. The media loves him because of his candor and sense of humor.
2. Michael Jordan–During and after his playing days, Jordan walks on water with the media. There is such a reverence that surrounds him during interviews it’s astonishing. Even when Jordan had his troubles with gambling, infidelity and his divorce, those stories had a life of about a couple of weeks and they drifted off, never to be discussed again. One of the things that helped Jordan with the media was the way he presented himself. Always stylist, always classy, Jordan had crossover appeal and was never a “threatening” athlete, like an Allen Iverson.
3. Tiger Woods— The most dominating athlete in his sport and maybe overall, Woods is approaching Jordan-like treatment fromt the media. Golf is perhaps the most popular sport to play among sportswriters and other members of the media. We play it in our spare time and thus, makes the appreciation for what Woods does that much greater.
4. Shaq –The fun-loving center is adored for that very reason — he’s fun loving. Since he came into the league, he’s giving some of the most memorable soundbytes and clips in NBA history. He’s given the media quotes and anectodes that are priceless. Not to mention the numerous nicknames — The Diesel, The Big Aristotle, etc.
5. Derek Jeter –He’s the captain of the New York Yankees and has won four World Series titles. That alone will get you a pass.