ESPN = FACE-SAVING MORE IMPORTANT THAN ACCURACY: THE BIG LEAD got us thinking more about the Jermaine O’Neal festival of misquotations last Sunday in Los Angeles. SbB was the first major sports blog to link to Arash Markazi’s SI.com piece about O’Neal saying he would welcome a trade to L.A. We also noted at the time that ESPN was completely mum on the subject.
And now we now know exactly why Bristol was silent at the time - ESPN editors were scrambling to contact the only rep they had at the charity affair, someone named Sam Alipour (who has a very stylish myspace account, indeed).
Alipour had previously been enlisted to write breezy sports celeb pieces for ESPN.com, some of which were mildly entertaining. But he hadn’t been asked to nail down a major story for the WWL, and when he was earlier this week it appears he failed miserably.
To refresh your memory, O’Neal was quoted by Markazi saying “I would welcome a trade to the Lakers.” Stunningly, several hours after SI.com posted Markazi’s version of events, ESPN.com still hadn’t moved on what was the biggest sports story of the day.
When Alipour finally had his piece on O’Neal posted on ESPN.com, the INDIANAPOLIS STAR reports it was rife with major inconsistencies regarding what Markazi (and an audio file acquired by the Pacers from the mini-gangbang) had recorded.
Alipour quotes O’Neal saying: “It’s time for me to move on. And the Lakers are the team I want Indiana to trade me to. Larry Bird is a hard man to deal with. He tries to make unfair trades.“
O’Neal subsequently flatly denied making those statements. And when confronted by Mark Montieth of the Indianapolis Star about the quotes he attributed to O’Neal, Alipour refused comment and (laughably) directed Montieth to an ESPN spokeshole (who said ESPN stood behind the report 100% - of course!).
Montieth’s response: “If I’m Alipour and I have a recording of the comments that O’Neal denies making, I’m asking ESPN to post it on its website _ or at least playing it for reporters who call. I wouldn’t allow someone to challenge my credibility without responding.”
The Big Lead and the Indy Star won’t say it, but we will. In our opinion, Alipour manufactured the aforementioned comments by O’Neal. He was in over his head and when a big story broke, fumbled the ball. It wasn’t his fault though, he never should’ve been put in that position by ESPN in the first place.
Rather than get skunked by SI on a major NBA story, ESPN instead chose to offer up a bogus accounting of events, and further damage its already questionable credibility.