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ESPN showed Nuggets celebration for all of four seconds before panning to LeBron

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Terrence Clay

May 24, 2023, 1:45:07 AM5/24/23

Monday should have been the Nuggets’ ultimate coronation, but instead, the moment was largely overshadowed by the Lakers’ defeat

By Jesse Pantuosco on 05/23/2023

ESPN, in its programming, has often been accused of showing bias toward certain players and teams, prioritizing personalities and narratives that most appeal to their audience. That tendency has been readily apparent throughout the NBA playoffs, with the Los Angeles Lakers, led by superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, dominating ESPN’s basketball coverage.

The top-seeded Denver Nuggets, on the heels of a four-game sweep, are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time, a crowning achievement for a long-suffering franchise that has had precious little to celebrate for the bulk of its existence. Monday should have been the Nuggets’ ultimate coronation, a richly-deserved triumph for do-it-all big man Nikola Jokic (whose eight triple-doubles are already the most by a player in NBA postseason history), but instead, the moment was largely overshadowed by the Lakers’ defeat.

In fact, as pointed out by popular Twitter account Velodus, of the two minutes immediately following Denver’s Game 4 victory, Nuggets players appeared on screen for all of four seconds before ESPN’s cameras followed James to the locker room, perhaps for the final time in his Hall-of-Fame career.

Okay, I had to confirm this. In the 2 minutes after Denver won to go to the Finals, ESPN's cameras actually focused on just the victorious Nuggets for a grand total of 4 seconds. They cut away from the Nuggets celebration for about 90 straight seconds.

— Velodus (@velodus) May 23, 2023

Predictably, the Nuggets were an afterthought on Get Up the following morning, with James’ future and potential offseason fixes for the Lakers (including Kyrie Irving, who had a court-side seat to Monday’s game at Arena) driving most of the dialogue. Bias toward glamour franchises, particularly those located in major media markets, is an unfortunate reality of sports coverage, a consequence of ESPN and other hugely influential platforms playing to their audience, often at the expense of better, more compelling teams like Denver and Miami, the latter one win away from punching its own NBA Finals ticket.

Jokic’s dominance is no secret—he’s been the most complete player in the sport for the better part of three years now. Though whether it’s his appearance (in NBA lore, has there ever been a less athletic-looking superstar?), his foreign heritage or Denver’s relative newness to basketball’s biggest stage, Jokic isn’t seen as “sexy” or marketable enough to be the lead story on ESPN, even after besting LeBron and Kevin Durant in back-to-back series.

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