Well, that took long enough.
Back in April of 2012, we momentarily blew up the national sports blogosphere when we revealed that Oklahoma City’s own Skip Bayless – the notorious, loud-mouthed, universally loathed sports debating troll for then ESPN and now Fox Sports One – grossly overstated and embellished his high school sports accomplishments on Twitter.
You probably remember the story. Skip was tweeting one night about Russell Westbrook not being a true point guard, and how OKC would be better off letting Harden run the offense:
In hindsight, I guess you can say Skip had a decent point. Russ is a great, but I wonder what those Thunder teams would have looked like with Harden running point and Westbrook free to wreak havoc on the wing? Add a player like KD to the mix and they would have been unstoppable! If only we could have had them all on the team at the same time.
To justify his criticism and prove the he knew what he was talking about, Skip casually revealed a secret – He was a little PeteMaravich in high school…
DeadSpin – a frequent Bayless critic – mocked the tweet with this article. Other sports websites followed. Then, in typical digital media fashion, Skip’s humble-brag fell off the radar. Well, that is until the Ogle Mole Network did it’s thing.
A week or so after Skip’s self-promoting tweet, I was forwarded some scans of the Northwest Classen High School yearbook from Skip’s senior year. It revealed Skip Bayless – the MVP of a state-wide basketball camp – only averaged 1.7 points per game his senior year of high school. We also learned he was the captain of the JV squad during his junior year. We quickly vetted and verified the information, and by the following morning, posted this article.
By the end of the day, just about every major sports website outside of the ESPN death-grips picked up on our story. The Oklahoman even launched a full-scale investigation, digging through old archives and interviewing Skip’s high pals like Craig Humphreys. Sports Illustrated compared us to Woodward and Bernstein. It was weird.
The day after the story broke, I watched ESPN First Hot Take Pizza, or whatever they called it, to see if Skip and his debate partner at the time – Jalen Rose – would discuss the topic. They did… for a bit:
From that point on, Skip never really brought up or addressed the blatant over-exaggeration of his high school sports days. Until now…
Last night, Skip channelled his long-lost his inner-sports writer and released a raw, emotional, long-form confessional about his troubled suburban upbringing in the northwest metro, the difficult and distant relationships he had with his mother and father, and his teenage athletic feats and accomplishments.
One thing Skip addressed several times was the controversy regarding his 2012 tweets. He shared the back story about how he went from a sensational Freshman basketball MVP to a Senior year scrub.
Here’s a snippet:
In ninth grade, Bruce Scott and I played on an AAU team that also featured Ron Ronborg (who would sign with the University of Houston), Danny Case (who would make All-State in football and sign with Oklahoma State) and Jimmy Edwards (who would sign as a running back with the University of Oklahoma). Bruce and I alternated leading the team in scoring. I probably had my best game in the state semifinals at Oklahoma Christian College. But we had to return that same night, a Saturday, to play the finals against Bartlesville.
I don’t remember being nervous, but I couldn’t buy a basket or do much of anything right. I lost another finals, badly. But I also was as sure as the sun coming up I would play college basketball.
Don VanPool did not share my belief. VanPool, the basketball coach at our high school, was already a legend. His Northwest team had won state championships in 1964 and 1965 and would win another my sophomore year.
This is the Northwest gym now named for the legendary coach who never loved my game. I spent many long afternoons and nights in this building.
From the start, VanPool didn’t like much of anything about my game. My style was to push the ball up the floor, attack or pull up for fast-break threes before there was a three-point line. VanPool, a deep-voiced, heavy-set, snuff-dipping former football player at Oklahoma State, insisted on an extremely disciplined offense run through the post. I was unnecessary hot sauce on his meat and potatoes. It wasn’t like he needed me…
The first practice under VanPool in ninth grade, I blew by a defender with the crossover dribble that had helped me win Athlete of the Year the year before. VanPool’s whistle might as well have been a police siren echoing through the gym. Deathly quiet ensued.
He said to me, “They’ll call you for carrying the ball on that every time in the Mid-State Conference.”
I was stunned and mortified. After that, I was pretty much a basket case. My friend Bruce, who had now grown three inches taller than me, made the varsity as a sophomore and even made some key plays in the state tournament we won. I was lost on the B team.
Yep, instead of accepting responsibility for not to listening to his coach, and modifying his game to fit to the style of the team he played for, he goes full Uncle Rico and blames the coach for not giving him a chance. How fitting.
Later in the article, Skip takes things up a notch and blames the coach’s son:
The worst moment of my athletic life came before our first basketball preseason “scrimmage” that November. I’d been getting starter reps in practices. But at the end of a practice before our first practice game, we took a knee around Don VanPool and he announced the starters. The fifth and last was … his son.
Not me. His son Donnie VanPool.
Donnie, a junior, had transferred in from Southeast High. I should’ve seen it coming. But I was blindsided and devastated. I just didn’t think Donnie was better than I was.
VanPool even announced the final starter in something of an apologetic tone. He obviously knew this wasn’t the best look. So he sarcastically (but lovingly) said: “Get up here, Lightning.”
Donnie, a couple of inches taller and definitely heftier than me, was far from the quickest or fastest on the team. He was the spittin’ image of his father, built more like a football player. He had a nice feel for the game – his father had taught him well. He was a better rebounder than I was. But better player? No way.
That night I drove around by myself for an hour or so trying to figure out what to do about losing my starting spot to the coach’s son. If I’d had a dad or big brother to advise and encourage me, I would have made a stink. If my parents had been like a lot of parents I’ve known, they’d have been in VanPool’s office the next morning raising hell. Instead, I just lost confidence and faith in myself. If Don VanPool didn’t think I was good enough, I guessed I wasn’t. My parents certainly didn’t think I was.
That’s a bummer. I’m sure lots of successful athletes have had to overcome their own bad attitudes and even badder coaches (and coaches’ sons) to make it in sports. It’s a shame Skip didn’t, because sports media would be so much better without him.
Either way, can someone please track down Donnie VanPool and give him a high-five? He’s an American hero… and averaged five more points per game than a clearly superior Bayless!
Anyway, whether you’re a fan of all things Oklahoma City, or just a licensed therapist who’s looking for a new client, I’d encourage you to check out Skip’s column. It’s a long, fascinating read, and an interesting look inside the mind of an unforgiving self-absorbed man who now makes millions engaging in an endless cycle of contrived sports debates sandwiched between Frank Thomas advertisements for Nugenix.