Stephen A. Smith’s media career has been dotted with supreme highs and embarrassing lows, but what he said Friday during a Sirius Radio interview may have been rock bottom.
Some background: Writing for Derek Jeter’s website, Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams bafflingly took aim at the tanking talk, as if he could somehow defend the only winless team in the NBA. For some reason, MCW decided to take a jab at the media, and as an example, he used a moment in the locker room with Stephen A. Smith:
The media creates this narrative and repeats it over and over. That’s how Stephen A. Smith ends up in our locker room with a big smile on his face. I’m not picking on him. I know he’s playing a character. He knows he’s playing a character. But what happens when we break the streak by going out and beating Detroit that night? Now it’s another story. After the game, a lot of the reporters didn’t even stick around. The ones that did weren’t prepared. They didn’t ask us about the specifics of the game. They made up questions on the spot, like, “Uh, hey, you guys won … so how do you feel?”
We weren’t the story anymore. They were on to the next thing. Stephen A. didn’t really stick around. I guess he had a plane to catch. Believe me, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure he doesn’t come back for the same reason.
Stephen A. Smith is a Philly guy, and spent his formative years covering the team and NBA in the City of Brotherly Love. He probably wasn’t happy with the ‘playing a character’ line (which was accurate), but I didn’t think MCW went in on Smith at all.
Smith fired back at MCW Friday on Sirius NBA radio, and in perhaps the saddest display of a media member tough-talking an athlete, here’s what Smith said:
“You’ve never going to have the last word over us. And you damn sure ain’t going to have the last word over me. I’m not going to start problems, but I can damn sure finish them. If these guys want to come at me, let them do it at their own peril. It will be a mistake.”
Listen to the audio yourself:
[UPDATE: If you want to hear Stephen A. Smith’s entire 3 minute interview – which Sirius uploaded to Soundcloud and labeled, “Stephen A. Smith joined NBA Today and warned Michael Carter-Williams about attacking him – you can find it here.]
This may have been the first time I’ve ever heard a media member levy threats on a millionaire athlete said media member is supposed to be “covering.” Did Smith think he was talking to some dude during a pickup basketball game at the Y? One of his colleagues in Bristol? Did he forget he was on a national radio show?
ESPN has done a fantastic job at creating vibrant personalities with strong opinions who sometimes drive the sports discussion. But has ESPN President John Skipper created a monster?
The ESPN ombudsman reminded everyone of this recently – the network wants its writers and TV personalities to adhere to journalistic principals. The thing is, these journalists aren’t ready for celebrity, and some of them are far removed from actual journalism.
With so many radio and TV commitments for these TV ‘stars’, the line between “celebrity” and “journalist” is blurred and every journalistic principal is out the window. Suddenly you’re in the barbershop with your buddies saying things that no journalist would ever say in a public setting.
It’ll be interesting to see how ESPN handles Smith’s outburst, if at all.
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Related: Stephen A. Smith Apologized for “Provoke” Comment, First Take Continues on Its Offensive, Embarrassing Way