Screenshot: ESPN

Hey, remember when ESPN trumped up a ho-hum quote by LeBron James about how cool it would be to play with one of the greatest players of this generation, and spun out a whole stupid news cycle from it, and got the NBA to send out a memo warning teams against players speaking aloud in a way that suggested ‚Äúsustained public recruiting?‚ÄĚ

I bring that up because, viewed from that angle, it’s possible to enjoy this SportsCenter screw-up as a kind of karmic comeuppance:

That is anchor Neil Everett highlighting a screenshot that purports to show LeBron being flirty in the comments next to an Anthony Davis Instagram post, and dropping the word ‚Äúlaker‚ÄĚ as a kind of mock Freudian slip. It is meant to be read as LeBron thumbing his nose at the NBA‚Äôs goofy anti-tampering efforts, which is how it is described by Everett:

‚ÄúLook what we found on Insta-face: LeBron James giving thumps up to Anthony Davis‚Äôs wardrobe, and at the same time James basically giving the middle finger to the NBA. Sheesh!‚ÄĚ

The problem, of course, is that the screenshot appears to have come from a two-part Twitter mini-thread by user @sreekyshooter, showing cleverly made but fairly obviously faked screenshots of LeBron courting Davis across social media. The screenshot in question is a joke:

In defense of whoever screwed this up at SportsCenter, Instagram is fucking impossible to search, and confirming the authenticity of a comment next to a post from any famous person requires scrolling through hundreds or even thousands of vertically aligned comments. The original joke screenshot was retweeted more than a hundred times, and probably screengrabbed and distributed in any number of subsequent tweets and texts and emails, both from people who got the joke and from people who, like Everett, were scandalized by what they assumed was the real thing. It looks real enough, and without the earlier Venmo screenshot to add context it’s easy enough to imagine someone thinking it was authentic, and therefore not bothering with an hour-long, eyeball-scorching scroll through 10,000 earnest comments from people with handles like itsyaboybrad_801.

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Still, it is good and right that the shop that drove this thing all the way from honest answer to sternly worded league-wide memo now has egg on its face for being a little too eager to see tampering where there in fact is none.