ESPN gets a lot of hate for showcasing the flashy plays rather than good fundamental play of the sport. Personally, I don't mind. ESPN is a business first, and making money is the top priority for any business. At the same time, they do have content that pays due diligence to the Xs and Os of the sport, and writers that know what they're talking about when they talk basketball. So, all in all, I believe the hate on ESPN's content to be blown out of proportion.
However, this doesn't extend to Chris Palmer, ESPN NBA insider.
Palmer epitomizes the worst aspects of ESPN: all the big name players, all the sexy stat lines, no visible understanding fundamentally of the sport of basketball.
Palmer's content is largely made up of lists or rankings. They nearly all revolve around the idea of individual players that are better than other individual players, and rely heavily on stats and big names. Here's a look at his last five published articles on ESPN.com (Insider content):
Two of those articles are lists of players in some context where they are either best or underrated (best transition players, underrated players). Two are opinion pieces on why one specific player is better than another player or group of players (Joakim Noah vs. other centers, Damian Lillard vs. Kyrie Irving). The last is an article grading core players on the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.
From that list of articles, you can see a few things already. First, Palmer loves the idea of best and better. Three of his articles have one of those two words in the title, and the list of underrated players place some players in a similarly positive light. Secondly, Palmer loves the players or the teams the spotlight shines most brightly on. With the exception of the underrated players article, which goes directly against that, all of his articles point out players or teams that receive a lot of media attention and coverage. From the URL links alone, this includes LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Joakim Noah, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics, Damian Lillard, and Kyrie Irving. James, Griffin and Noah play for three of the league's most nationally televised tams in the Heat, the Clippers, and the Bulls. The Lakers and the Celtics are, in spite of their struggles this season, the two NBA teams with the richest histories and are perpetually in the spotlight. Finally, Lillard and Irving are two of the most impressive and hyped up of a new generation of young point guards.
Going deeper, Palmer's content relies heavily on stats, and direct comparisons between players. My problem with this is that this is highly subjective. Stats can be skewed, and are easily manipulated to back an argument. Direct comparisons are even worse, as many factors, most notably the fact that they are never placed in the same situation (equal ground), can affect what we can see out of a player and direct comparisons rely on what we do see out of them. Palmer isn't completely without proven facts which are visible from the tape, but this is largely the exception to the rule.
In moderation, I can see the benefit of those types of pieces. They serve a purpose in giving readers an idea of the differences, pros and cons of different players. However, making a career out of it is poor journalistic practice. A journalist cannot deal entirely in subjectivity, especially not in sports. That implies that their opinion is always right, and in sports, constant subjectivity with very little analysis takes away integrity from the sport.
Even worse than his articles might be Palmer's Twitter feed (@ESPNChrisPalmer). There's no standard on what a Twitter feed needs to be, nor should there ever be one. However, Palmer's Twitter feed is largely made up of sexy stat lines, more of the 'better and best', and superstar hype. As a basketball fan, it's very frustrating to see Palmer tweet statistics and continue to hype up the superstars and the flashy players, but give less credit to the actual fundamentals of basketball going on. He regularly tweets about Kobe, Jordan, LeBron, and the like. In comparison, you will see him praising somebody like a Moe Harkless or even an Al Jefferson much less.
Frankly, Palmer is one of the worst sports writers that I have ever read. I might have a lower opinion of him than many other do. However, I would like to think that the fact is that who he is and what he does is not helping build up respect for the true sport of basketball. It's not simply about 40 point, 15 rebound explosions. Sometimes, it comes down to a pick-and-roll where the help defender hedges the ball-handler, forcing precious seconds off of the clock until the ball-handler has to jack up a contested fadeaway three at the buzzer. And yet, the best breakdown we might get out of Palmer is a tweet saying the ball-handler made 16-of-26 shots but missed the most important one. To me, Palmer has demonstrated very little knowledge of the sport of basketball, and he's nowhere near the level of many other sports journalists out there.