CHARLOTTE, NC — The noise from across the Carolina Panthers locker room grew louder Thursday.
Almost deafeningly loud.
The players weren’t in a heated discussion as to why they were 1-5 and the losers of 12 of the last 13 games fell to 32nd in ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings. They didn’t argue about whether owner David Tepper was right or wrong in firing trainer Matt Rhule, a man most of them had tremendous respect for the week before.
They didn’t even discuss the possibility of Carolina Christian McCaffrey trading, which would put her in complete rebuild mode — a deal that actually happened around midnight when the returning star was sent to the San Francisco 49ers for a couple of draft picks .
Instead, they squabbled over whether Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was better at 37 than Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is 27.
It started as a somewhat friendly debate between cornerback Donte Jackson and edge rusher Brian Burns, both of whom live in the far corner of the locker room. Jackson insisted it was Giannis, the NBA’s MVP in 2019 and 2020 and the 2021 NBA Finals MVP.
Burns insisted it was LeBron, a four-time NBA MVP, though James hasn’t won one since 2013. LeBron is also a four-time Finals MVP, the most recent in 2020.
As the discussion turned into a screaming fight, the two Panthers players lured others in. Among them were defensive tackle Bravvion Roy and wide receiver Rashard Higgins, who seemed a little confused by how high spirited Jackson and Burns were.
Jackson, who is much shorter than Burns (6-5, 260) at 5ft 10 and 181lbs, seemed to have the upper hand simply because he was louder. And in his words: “I know more about basketball than anyone else.”
Burns had the last word, shouting “Giannis can’t shoot!” for the umpteenth time as he abruptly exited the dressing room. Antetokounmpo averaged almost 22 points per game on 53.5% shooting for his career. James has averaged 27 points per game over his long career, but has a lower percentage of field goals than Antetokounmpo.
The final word here is, no matter how bad it is for a team that’s down from a loss, the players still have life, they’re still fans of other sports and athletes, and they can easily get into heated debates, just like the average person.