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LeBron Can’t Be A Player-Coach

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on from the bench during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 13, 2024 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we're talking about doom, beefs, chips, puppies, and more.

Your letters:


The Lakers should just make LeBron the head coach. What the hell does Darvin Ham know that LeBron doesn't at this point? Or any coach for that matter?

The CBA has not allowed player-coaches in the NBA since the 1980s, so it's not gonna happen. But let's pretend it could. It's an attractive idea, isn’t it? LeBron has cycled through so many pud coaches that it’s easy to say that he should just coach the team himself. But he already does. Ever since LeBron got David Blatt exiled from Cleveland to The Phantom Zone, he’s been able to hand-pick his head coaches. These are men whose job is to run the team according to LeBron’s wishes, and then to act as fall guy when those orders don’t produce a 16-0 run through the playoffs.

Ham was a solid fall guy, given that he didn’t quite coach the Lakers to LeBron’s specs (or at least reportedly didn’t). This means that JJ Redick, or whoever else LeBron taps for the gig, should ideally be different from his predecessor. He won’t be. He’ll still be a cog in a broken wheel. And there’s no sense in Bron becoming a player/coach himself because then he’d actually have to take the blame for it when does a shitty job.

That’s as much Bron griping as I can do, otherwise I’ll find myself doing takes that expired back in 2010. LeBron a legend, and he’s probably the smartest basketball mind in any organization he plays for. But he’s proven to be a shitty shadow GM, so it’s only natural to say that he hasn’t been a very good shadow coach either. He doesn’t need some red-faced prick barking orders at him, but he does need a coach who can give him proper direction, thus freeing him from feeling like he has to do six different jobs at the same time.

The greatest craftsmen in the universe are ones who, despite what they’ve already achieved, never feel as if they’ve mastered their chosen vocation. They always want to get better, even if they’re already the best by a zillion miles. LeBron is very much that kind of professional. He’s also been playing for 21 years and just wants to play a few games with his kid before fucking off to the beach forever. I’m not gonna blame him for that, but I also think it’s clear that L.A.’s current organizational model isn’t working, and won’t.


I was with you in solidarity in 2019 when you wrote that LET'S GOOOO was played out. Would you agree with me that here, in Today Society 2024, the epidemic has gotten worse?

It’s become so entrenched in modern slang that I don’t really pay attention anymore. I’ve used this space to complain about a lot of Gen Z vernacular, especially when people my age use it: “banger,” “fire,” “goes hard,” “whips,” “slays,” “#LFG,” and the ironic LOL. But I’m just being a crank when I lodge all of those gripes. I may as well go pick a fight with the ocean. Also, all of those terms are cool by me when my kids use them. If I tell the 15-year-old, “We’re ordering takeout tonight,” and he gives me a firm LET’S GO, I’m a happy dad. He wears that slang well, as does anyone 18 and under. If you’re 36 and tweeting OMG THE NEW TAY BANGS, your epidermis is showing. But I’m done trying to keep you from embarrassing yourself.


I seem to remember you saying (in the Funbag, on The Distraction, or in a Jamboroo) that you don't subscribe to the Doomer Mentality, and that things are going to get better. Considering we are at Peak Bleak, my question is, any idea when? 

Are we at peak bleak? What makes you think that this moment is the most horrifying time in world history? Was everything way better a year ago? Or was it 1986 when everything was super? Or 1772? Or the dinosaur age? When exactly was history at its most pleasant? Was it before, you know, medicine was invented?

This is the issue I have with doomer shit. Everyone online is acting like history is happening to them and that it has never happened to people who lived through the Civil War, or the Black Plague, or literally any other date in the past. To run around being like THIS IS THE WORST TIME TO BE ALIVE EVER! is needy, stupid, and arrogant. Imagine time-traveling here from the Vietnam War era and hearing this shit from the people around you, as they effortlessly telecommunicate with the rest of the planet while waiting for an order of delicious pad thai to show up at their doorstep. You’d wanna smack the shit out of everyone, and you’d be right to. To assume nothing can ever get better is to make your own bed and then dump a gallon of human excrement into it.

Now I've got my privilege pants on when I lodge this complaint. I have it good and not everyone does, so if your life is shit right now, I'm not gonna blame you for lashing out at the world around you. Because nothing is perfect right now. The onslaught in Gaza shows no signs of abating. Joe Biden can’t read the room, much less the dinner menu at a low-lit restaurant. Donald Trump is still alive. Private equity is eating entire industries alive. The Vikings still need a left guard. None of that is optimal. But that also doesn’t mean I’m living through the fucking apocalypse. I’m not that important and my timing isn’t that good. This is the world I live in, and it isn’t going anywhere in my lifetime. So I’m gonna do my best to have a good time while I’m here. I already died once, you know. That was worse than living through Peter Baker’s kid being a sentient cock hair.

This is the world you live in, too. It will always be a fucking mess, if not in America then elsewhere. You can do your best to help fix it, and you should. But you should also accept that you can only do so much, and that you should appreciate what IS good in the world while you’re still alive. You can fear a second Trump presidency while remembering that his acolytes have no fucking idea what they’re doing. You can lament Mark Zuckerberg having access to the corridors of power while remembering that he’ll never, ever be cool. And you can ask Siri to help you write jokes about how worthless AI is. Because who wants to live in constant dread? More important, who wants everyone else to live that way? That’s asshole shit, and I have no interest in people who are dying to bum me out. I’d rather go chill with my dog. He whips.


At what point does Defector pull the plug on communications through Twitter (or whatever it is)? I deleted it when Elon bought it, but I appreciate I don’t have a business connection to it. Just curious on the thought process. 

We’ve had internal discussions at Defector about severing ties with TwiXter, to the point where we no longer do embeds in posts if we can help it. I don’t know if we’ll ever formally delete our corporate account, but I do see a future where we leave it dormant permanently.

Because the ROI for using Twitter is slowly dwindling down to nothing. A couple years ago, I would’ve told you that I’ll never stop tweeting. Going radio silent wasn’t an option, given my line of work. But since Elon took over, he’s proven that I, nor my colleagues, actually need his company’s services, if we ever did. His TwiXter is hemorrhaging regular users and yet Defector remains prosperous, as do I. Turns out that readers can find shit to read without a social media platform pointing them where to go. So you won’t see us make any sort of grand proclamation that we’re done with that place, because we kind of already are.


Would you ever create a manufactured beef where you diss a fellow Defector writer in order to garner interest, ala the dumb Kendrick-Drake feud? Who would be the best person at Defector to conduct a sniping war in each other articles?

Now why would I need to manufacture a beef with a Defector staffer when so many of them, who will remain nameless (Luis), already make me genuinely angry on a daily basis? If I’m gonna give you beef, it’s gonna be the real deal. A5 grade Wagyu. That’s a promise.

Secondly, everyone knows a fake feud when they see it. The brands have trained all of us to sniff out a Kimmel/Damon-style fight when we see it. These Beyond Beefs are a letdown at best and outright grating at worst. See here for a glaring example. I can’t even trust the current Drake-versus-everyone beef, because I know that it could all be revealed as an ad for a fucking podcast at any moment. My beefdar is just that sensitive, perhaps overly so given that the widespread hatred for Drake within the hip hop industry has apparently been festering for a decade and a half.

So I reserve my own grievances for when they’re real, and then I air them. Burneko once wrote that he hated autumn. I wrote that he was stupid. Barry once wrote that Tom Brady wasn’t the best QB of all time. I wrote that Barry was wrong, calling him a “moron,” because he was one. Roth tried to cancel “Immigrant Song” on the podcast once and I’ll always hold that against him. Would such grievances ever devolve into acts of violence? No, because we have a business to take care of. For the past four years, making sure we all get along has proven a remarkably profitable business model. Much better than if Lauren Theisen and I pretended to get in a blood feud over which pizza topping is the best.


I am curious about your thoughts on Jason Kelce joining ESPN's Monday Night Football pregame show. To me, assuming all the NFL broadcasters were interested in hiring him, this is about the worst one he could've chosen. 

It doesn’t matter. Shit, Phil Simms just got the axe from CBS and I didn’t even bother to write a post celebrating the occasion. You know why? Because Pheel had already been cast out of the booth and onto the CBS pregame set years ago. I’ve never had to deal with his bullshit since they made that move, because I don’t watch any NFL pregame shows. No serious football fan does. Those shows exist as wallpaper. If I have FOX NFL Sunday on, it’s gonna be on mute, and I’m only gonna put it on to stake claim to that TV before anyone else can. My wife and kids walk into the room, see a muted Terry Bradshaw slobbering through his dentures, and they know Dad is about to watch football. For this, and this alone, pregame shows are useful. In every other regard, they’re interchangeable dogshit. It doesn’t matter if CBS remade their NFL Today cast to be 6.2 years younger on average. It’s still gonna be a waste of time.

Ditto Kelce The Elder joining Monday Night Countdown, which has been optional viewing since its inception in 1993. I like Jason Kelce. He’ll probably be tolerable on that show. But he’s not gonna make it fundamentally different from what it is now. If the NFL wanted its own Inside The NBA, it would have one by now. It doesn’t. It wants unflavored oatmeal with a side of chicken breast before every game. For all of Jason Kelce’s charms, he doesn’t have the power or the force of will to change that.



I need a ruling on something that has been bothering me for a while. I routinely see and hear people referring to championships as “chips”, when I absolutely believe that “ship” is the superior shortened term. One, the word “chip” isn’t even present in the large word. Two, using “ship” allows for way more fun since you can iterate on all the various ship/boat/vessel types to refer to your win. 

I don’t use either of those. For the most part, I only use “titles,” “rings,” “championships,” and “Super Bowls.” Anytime I’ve started to type “chip,” I’ve held down the Delete key. Using that word felt like I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t (i.e. younger). That’s probably not true. Talking heads older than me use “chip” freely, and without looking like they’re straining. In other words, it’s simply a matter of personal taste. Screenshot this and send it to me after J.J. McCarthy wins the Vikings a Super Bowl and I buy an officially unlicensed ONE CHIP FOR THE VIKING SHIP t-shirt to celebrate the occasion.


Last week, we adopted a rambunctious puppy. This seemingly innocuous action, along with the presence of the other dog in our house AND a pretty intense toddler has turned me into a certified yeller. When things are chaotic, and they always are, I slam doors and cabinets shut, and I yell. A lot. The other day the kid was antagonizing the puppy and I just screamed out, "FUCK! IT SUCKS LIVING IN THIS HOUSE NOW!" My wife overheard that and wasn't pleased. As someone who has dealt with fits of anger yourself, any advice to not be a screaming lunatic at all hours?

Oh wow, I didn’t know Kristi Noem read the Funbag, much less submitted questions to it using a burner account. Cricket deserved to die, she’ll have you know. She hopes that dog rots in hell.

In all seriousness, I’ve been where you are. When I was a new parent, I too was utterly overwhelmed. I screamed. I threatened. I lost control of myself. I only gained control through going to therapy, taking my meds, and using my experience failing as a parent to get better at the job. That’s a process that pretty much every parent has to go through, especially when you throw the stress of money into the equation.

You, Justin, clearly lost control of yourself, and it’s clearly affecting both your wife and your kid (and even the dog). It’s also clear that you know this, and are eager to get better. Wanting to be better is like 95 percent of it, so act on your instincts. Ask your wife how you can improve. Ask your kid’s pediatrician. Ask a therapist if you have one, or ask your general practitioner. Ask our commenters. Ask your own parents. And don’t wait as long as I did to listen to them.

Also, take breaks when you need them. If you sense a fit of rage coming and you need 5–10 minutes to cool down, ask your wife to cover for you and then go lie down. Then you won’t be chillin’ like a villain, but chillin’ like a HERO. Huh? Huh? Hey where are you going?


I had to get a new doctor this year under new insurance. So I go in for my first physical last Friday, and who should walk in the room but a woman who was pretty easy on the eyes. My question is: If I switch doctors after a few "get to know you" appointments, can I ask her out? (She didn't see me naked or check my prostate). Thanks. 

I see no way of attempting this that doesn’t make you look like Vince McMahon. You’d have to leave that practice entirely, right now. Then you’d have to “accidentally” bump into this woman in another setting, do the whole “I was actually your patient once!” thing, and then hope that the ensuing rapport leaves a window open for you to ask her to grab a drink sometime. The odds of this plan working are roughly the same as Spencer Rattler’s chances to win Rookie of the Year. By contrast, the odds of this woman taking out a restraining order on you are much, much higher.

Also, you already fucked up by asking ME about it. Now that the rest of us know your plan, you’re gonna get shamed out of it. You can only execute this kind of move in absolute secrecy. That way, when you have to abort, no one has to know that it even crossed your mind. This is why I’ve never disclosed my plan to make Gabrielle Anwar my second wife. You can’t cancel what you can’t see. #knowledge


Husker Du and Bob Mould used to do nothing for me when I was in college. But it appears that I've developed the receptors later in life. A few years ago, something similar happened to me with Fleetwood Mac while driving on a foggy night in Maine.Is this a common experience, to be so totally wrong about a musician when you're young? Are there any bands/musicians that you've reappraised in recent years with a more mature ear? 

Oh yeah, it happens all the time. Take Oasis, for instance. I fucking hated Oasis when they first arrived on American soil. I was like, “Who are these dipshits to rip off the Beatles and then openly call George Harrison a ‘nipple’? They seem like real assholes!” Meanwhile, my favorite artists at that exact same time included the likes of Axl Rose, Vince Neil, and Lars Ulrich. Scum of the fucking earth. Why I suddenly put a character clause in my Hall of Fame for the Gallagher brothers is beyond me. Regardless, a friend I trusted in college told me, “You’re being stupid, these guys fucking rock,” and I listened, and they did.

I can reel off a bunch more bands like that. I didn’t like The Hold Steady at first because of Craig Finn’s voice (a common barrier for entry to that band). I wanted to like Queens of the Stone Age but couldn’t get into Songs For The Deaf when I first listened to it at a Tower Records listening station. And when Radiohead got a lot of press for OK Computer, I sneered, “The ‘Creep’ guys? They’re still around? Whatever.” Your tastes evolve as you do. That’s true of all of us. You never know what you’re gonna like 10, 20 years from now. Why, I’ve even recently began to cultivate a newfound appreciation for country music!

(Just kidding. I still fucking hate country music.)


What percentage of cars on the road with “New Driver: Please Be Patient” bumper stickers do you suppose have never had a driver in training at the wheel, and are just ordinary drivers trying to buy a measure of grace from cops and/or their fellow motorists for their careless/reckless behavior? 

Zero, but with a catch. No childless driver is gonna put that sticker on the back of their own car, because every American, myself included, thinks they’re the greatest driver in the world and should be treated as such. HOWEVAH, I can confidently tell you that New Driver cars are being driven by a new driver a solid five percent of the time. That car is being used by Mom or Dad to commute for the bulk of the year, with the occasional test drive around the block for little Junior after he gets home from school on Thursday afternoons.

This is why it makes no sense to ever put that sticker on your car to begin with. Not only is it unlikely that a new driver is behind the wheel, but other cars will treat you like SHIT if you have one. No fellow driver, especially in Maryland, gives a fuck if it’s your first day behind the wheel. In fact, they hate that they’re stuck behind some fresh-faced little shit that won’t dare drive the speed of traffic. They’re gonna crawl right up your ass.

And what good would it do to teach a kid to drive in a car that gets treated differently than every other car anyway? Suppose that you and I lived in a magical fairyland where people were actually respectful of both new drivers and babies on board. Your child would get to learn in a realistic but somewhat controlled environment. And then they’d get their license, you’d remove the training sticker from the back of the car, and BOOM! Fifty cars are up your kid’s ass the second they go out for their first drive as an adult, and they won’t be able to handle it.

This is why, when I taught my kids to drive, I didn’t put that sticker on our car. In fact, I made them race the car through an obstacle course that included drunk drivers, canyon-sized potholes, large oil slicks, and a storm of machine gun fire. You have to prepare your kids for the world how it is, not how you want it to be. Besides, my 18-year-old looks super badass with her eyepatch now.

Email of the week!


I want to tell this story because I’ve never felt better about myself as a dad, ever. My 7-year old son found a tick on his balls over the weekend and didn’t say anything about it until Monday. My wife completely loses it and goes running for tools to solve the problem while our kid is on the toilet upstairs. Some calming paternal sixth sense washes over me and I can tell this is not a huge deal but, more importantly, that this is the absolute last job for a mom.

I go to get clean tweezers, which I wash, sterilize and then rinse with filtered water. I head upstairs. My wife is just in front of me clutching whatever tools she scrambled together that I can’t see, and as I reach the top of the stairs I hear her say to our son, “We’re gonna need to light a flame to get it detached it’s gonna be okay…” I walk into the bathroom as the boy is screaming “YOU’RE GONNA LIGHT MY BALLS ON FIRE!!” and bursts into hysterical tears, while my wife has kneeled down next to him, holding an aim-and-flame lighter.

I pick her up and move her out of the way. I throw the lighter out with her, lock the bathroom door and tell my son, “Hey buddy just chill. Mom doesn’t get it, but don’t worry: I promise no one is gonna light your balls on fire.” 

A short time, later the tick was successfully removed and the boy was fine. My wife has been coming to grips with the thought that the only solution to this problem was that she was going to have to blowtorch our son’s balls because, “THERE’S NOTHING ELSE WE CAN DO!”

Let this story serve as a PSA for the coming tick season. If you’re going out in the woods this summer, PLEASE be sure to tuck your balls into your socks.

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