It's a New Year and new beginning for Chris Broussard.
After announcing last October that he's leaving ESPN after 12 years to join Fox Sports 1, the veteran sports personality has started 2017 slinging his sharpest takes on NBA hot-button topics and more.
In addition to sharing his opinions on FS1's Undisputed and on the network's radio station every Saturday night, Broussard will launch his own podcast, In the Zone With Chris Broussard, today. There, he'll continue speaking on everything NBA while sharing no-holds-barred opinions on other sports as well.
Here, BET.com speaks with Broussard about his new podcast, NBA players getting a vote for the All-Star Game and whether LeBron James could ever be the GOAT over Michael Jordan.
He also gives us his thoughts on Ice Cube's new summer ball league for retired NBA players, the upcoming Chris Brown-Soulja Boy celebrity boxing fight and his craziest All-Star Weekend experience.
Tell us about the podcast and what people can expect from it.
Well, the title of the podcast is In the Zone With Chris Broussard and we think it's going to be a really fun, exciting podcast and we think it will be separated from the other podcasts that are out there. We will focus a lot on the NBA because obviously that's my specialty and what I'm known for, but we'll also at appropriate times deal with social issues and social issues that are related to sports. We'll mix in hip-hop culture in a fun way, too.
I think fans and listeners will really have a great time in checking out the podcast. I've covered the NBA for 21 years — since 1995 — and so, this is really a chance for me to share my educated opinions on what's going on around the league. I won't just be reporting news and sharing the facts the way people got used to me doing at ESPN. This will be a chance for people to see me in a little different light where I'll really be sharing my opinions about the hottest topics in the NBA.
Speaking of hot topics in the NBA, you’re known for having your finger on the pulse of everything that happens in the league. With All-Star Weekend coming up next month, what do you think about the players and media each getting 25 percent of the vote this year?
I like that. I’ve been feeling for years that they needed to broaden the voting from just fans. [Golden State Warriors center] Zaza Pachulia is a prime example of when you just let fans vote. Now, I doubt that he’d get voted into the All-Star Game, but even the fact that he was leading [in votes] at some point amongst big men or had a chance at least in some point of starting in the All-Star Game … is just, with all due respect to Zaza, a travesty.
We saw it with [former NBA center] Yao Ming, when he started all those All-Star Games ahead of Shaquille O’Neal. It was because of the fan votes in China. So, I think as a way to balance things out and make sure you get the most deserving players, bringing the media in — who should be unbiased — and then the players, I like it generally. I think it’s a good change.
Piggybacking on that, do you think NBA players should get 100 percent of the MVP vote and soon?
No. Not just not soon, but no, period. They have their new Players Awards [in conjunction with BET] and that’s good. I think that’s fine. But the league has always had the media vote on postseason awards and I think it should stay that way. These are the guys that cover the games. A lot of players may not even see a guy play a lot of games. They may only see them when they play against them or on the highlights where you don’t really get a feel of how well or how poorly a guy is playing. The media covers these guys day in and day out and are supposed to be unbiased and objective, so I like the media doing the voting and it should stay that way.
When it comes to the MVP this season, everyone is talking about the play of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Who would you give the early nod to?
That’s actually the main topic of the first podcast, so I don’t want to give it away. But we will address the MVP race as it stands right now. You’re right — it’s a compelling race, it’s a very close race and I will address that [on the podcast].
It has been brutal for the New York Knicks. Do you think that this could be the season that Carmelo Anthony actually lifts his no-trade clause?
That’s entirely up to Carmelo and what he wants. He knew when he re-signed with the Knicks that he could’ve went to Chicago, which at the time was a contender and a much better team. He knew that when he re-signed with the Knicks that it was a team in rebuilding mode.
He loves New York City, he loves playing in Madison Square Garden and he really does like the spotlight of being with the Knicks and playing in the league’s and nation’s largest market. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t lift that no-trade clause. He’s not going to win a championship unless he waives it and gets traded elsewhere — there’s no way the Knicks this season or anytime soon are winning a championship. It really depends on what he prioritizes.
He showed us in free agency that he prioritized being in New York and getting that extra money. If he got traded, he’d have that money still. I would not fault Melo either way. It really depends on what he wants. I don’t think he’ll waive it this year — definitely not before the trade deadline. If he were to waive it, I think it would be in the offseason if this season continued to be negative and ended badly and if the Knicks couldn’t get a prime free agent to play with him.
Jamie Foxx has an upcoming movie called All-Star Weekend. Throughout your career, you’ve covered quite a few All-Star Weekends. Can you pinpoint one of the craziest All-Star Weekend moments or incidents that you covered or witnessed through the years?
My most exciting All-Star Weekend was 1997 in Cleveland and I was covering the Cavaliers. That was the year they announced the greatest 50 players of all time and all of them were there: Wilt Chamberlain,Moses Malone, Dr. J [Julius Erving], Rick Barry, Magic Johnson. I got to meet them and, during the game, I sat right in front of Dr. J and Moses Malone. Meeting those guys and interviewing them was an incredible thrill.
The strangest thing — the year was 2007 in Vegas — it was kind of wild. I stayed in the MGM and there were all types of characters staying in that hotel. And there were fights and at times people saw blood on the walls even if they didn’t see the fight. That was probably the craziest All-Star Weekend.
Ice Cube and former NBA player Roger Mason are working on a new 3-on-3 summer ball league for retired players called the BIG3. What are your thoughts about that?
I think it’s a great idea. In the summer, when basketball is in the offseason after free agency, a lot of people who aren’t into baseball want to get a basketball fix. Being that it’s 3-on-3, I think that puts a different spin on it and then you bring in retired players, old names. If you had an Allen Iverson in that league, I think people would want to see him. [Following the interview with Broussard, Iverson was confirmed to participate in the BIG3 as a player/coach].
The key is they have to market it correctly — It’s not the NBA, so don’t try to sell it as the NBA or something that’s going to be comparable to the NBA. Market those retired players who will draw fans in and the fact that it’s 3-on-3, which we could all relate to. I think it could be a very good league if it’s done the right way.
Early into this new year, we can’t escape the ongoing news about Chris Brown and Soulja Boy having a celebrity boxing match. Floyd Mayweather Jr. will reportedly train Soulja and Mike Tyson will train Breezy. What do you think about this and does it cheapen the sport of boxing? Despite great bouts lined up in the sport this year, this fight is getting all the buzz.
I’m picking Chris Brown in that one. If I had to choose between Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather training me, I think I’d go with Floyd. I say that with the utmost confidence. If you can’t hit like Mike, you just can’t hit like Mike. I think Floyd would teach me better skills. But I think Chris Brown will win that match. If he doesn’t, it will be tough to live down because Soulja Boy doesn’t look like a very tough dude to me. I know that’s probably going to start a battle right there [Laughs].
You might end up in his IG crosshairs.
He might come at me, right? I was a bit surprised at the lack of love he got in the hood, though. From that video I saw, they didn’t want nothing to do with him. I’ve walked through the hood and I get love and I’m not scared. I’m not trying to act like I’m some big, tough guy, but I’ve never had that type of reaction in the hood. That said, I would go with Chris Brown.
As far as what it does for boxing, look, boxing is its own worst enemy. Whatever ends up hurting boxing, I feel no sympathy towards boxing because they do it to themselves. What boxing needs to do is create a boxing association just like every other sports league: UFC, NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball. There needs to be a league and you have to fight the best. You can’t avoid a certain fighter.
The [Dallas] Cowboys can’t say they don’t want to play the [Green Bay] Packers on Sunday. It’s a travesty that we didn’t get to see Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight in their prime. They were both out of their prime by the time they fought and it was one of the worst fights in the last 20 years. If boxing loses its popularity, it’s its own fault. The fact that people are more interested in seeing an R&B singer and a rapper fight than some of the best boxers in the world, I think boxing should look at that as a lesson, a teaching moment and figure out what it’s doing wrong and start giving the fans what they want.
Away from that fight, do you have a Super Bowl prediction?
New England — Tom Brady — over Green Bay. I’m going to go with that.
Your take on what LeBron James needs to do to be considered the GOAT over Michael Jordan made plenty of noise across social media. How many rings would you say are in King James’s future?
I don’t think he’ll do the three-peat that I said was necessary [to be the GOAT]. I think I may say four [total championships]. This Golden State team isn’t going away. Let me change that to five [total championships].
One short of Jordan’s six. And if LeBron goes on to win two more rings, where do you think that would leave him amongst the best of all-time?
I have him second all-time right now behind Jordan. You can point to blemishes on LeBron’s record — we know that. But you could point to blemishes on everybody’s record that’s beneath Jordan. If you want to say that Jordan didn’t beat Boston, the Lakers or Detroit when they were in their prime, you could do that, too. But once he started winning, it was over. You can’t put a blemish on his record, but everyone else, I could find a blemish.
Looking at the value LeBron brings, how he could turn around a team immediately, his numbers, the fact that his game is well-rounded from scoring to passing to defending to rebounding and leadership — he makes his teammates better — I would say he’s the second greatest player behind Michael Jordan and I think that’s where he’ll end up.
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