Like The Decision and the most recent Deadspin controversy, the Jim Gray/Corey Pavin feud may be nothing more than yet another tempest in a teapot, a completely irrelevant story given significant play during a slow news period.
Relevant or not, the feud is notable for being the latest controversy involving Gray — the former NBC and ESPN reporter who has some well-publicized black marks on his resume.
First, some background on the reported feud. Working for The Golf Channel, Gray reported on Tuesday that Pavin — the U.S. Ryder Cup Captain — “told him he would pick [Tiger] Woods for the Ryder Cup if he didn’t make the team on his own at the PGA Championship,” quoting Pavin as saying, “Of course I’m going to. He’s the best player in the world.”
Pavin denied Gray’s report, both on the social networking website Twitter and during a press conference on Wednesday. Following the press conference, Gray “confronted” Pavin, “pointed a finger at his chest and said, in a loud voice, ‘You’re a liar and you’re going down.'”
Gray has burst back onto the national scene this summer. In July, he interviewed LeBron James during a much-criticized one-hour special in which James announced he would play for the Miami Heat. Gray was panned for the questions he asked, which included asking whether LeBron still bit his fingernails. The special, which arguably generated both the most unwarranted hype and the most over-the-top criticism in the history of sports journalism, was actually Gray’s idea.
Prior to this summer, Gray had built up a litany of cringeworthy moments. During his last season working the NBA for ESPN (2006-07), he claimed that he had spoken to then-76ers G Allen Iverson on the phone, even quoting Iverson on-air as saying that he was hopeful he would be traded to the Timberwolves. Later, Gray revealed he had been duped, having spoken to someone he believed sounded like Iverson.
The most memorable of these cringeworthy moments came during Game 2 of the 1999 World Series, when Gray “started grilling” Pete Rose about whether he gambled on baseball games. The interview, which took place following a celebration in which Rose was named to the MLB All-Century team, quickly became a massive controversy. Gray was even snubbed by the Yankees’ Chad Curtis after Game 3 of the series, who refused to do an on-field interview with him after hitting a walk-off home run.
There was also Gray’s close relationship with Kobe Bryant, which called his objectivity into question — especially in 2003. That year, he essentially became a mouthpiece for Bryant’s complaints about Shaquille O’Neal. He also defended Bryant in the immediate aftermath of his arrest for sexual assault, saying on SportsCenter that he had known Bryant “before he could talk,” and would “be astonished if there was anything criminal in this.” Gray even criticized fans in Denver for booing Bryant in early ’04, saying he was “embarrassed for my city.”
Gray was somewhat vindicated in the Rose and Bryant matters, as Rose admitted in 2004 that he bet on baseball and Bryant never went to trial. Still, it is never a good thing whenever a sideline reporter becomes the story, and Gray has been the story on far too many occasions.