John Oliver may join Kevin Durant on Stephen A. Smith's enemy list.
The host of the HBO satirical news talk show Last Week Tonight took aim at the polarizing ESPN analyst during the program's weekly airing on Sunday night. Oliver was speaking about the NBA's ongoing struggles with the Chinese government, a battle that kickstarted with a tweet Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's supporting democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Oliver came out in support of Morey's tweet before comically analyzing the trade of Marquese Chriss ("I'm not even a Rockets fan! I'm just a fan of competent midseason roster moves!" ). After taking aim at the NBA's attempts to appease Chinese interests (while performing a tongue-in-cheek advertisement for HBO Max, his employers' upcoming streaming service), Oliver praises NBA commissioner Adam Silver for supporting Morey before his Smith slams.
Introducing Smith to a non-sports audience, Oliver warns that Smith "tends to be loud, wrong, and take pointlessly dramatic pauses". A clip is then presented from Smith's radio show, featuring Smith engaging in several pauses as he criticizes Morey for his social media comments.
When the show returns to Oliver, he doubles down on his criticism.
"If you're not a sports fan, and you're just seeing Stephen A. Smith for the first time, let me address a few things quickly," he says. "One, I'm sorry. Two, yes he's always like that, and three, no one knows why."
In ESPN's coverage of the NBA-China conflict, Smith has been criticized for focusing most of his discussion on Morey's initial tweet, as, in his words, it could affect the league's bottom line and international interest. Smith recently rose controversy during an episode of First Take when he compared Morey's comment to an outsider's view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as he stated "I don't see folks outside of the Jewish community talking about that too often".
On Smith's Morey statements, Oliver explains "What Smith is doing is there is essentially turning a blind eye to human right violations is OK if doing so is in your company's best interests. And that feels fundamentally wrong, especially given that some teams seem to be forcing Chinese restrictions on speech here in the US."
Oliver's last comments refer to an incident at a Philadelphia 76ers game earlier this month. Fan Sam Wachs and his wife were removed from the Sixers' preseason tilt against a professional Chinese squad from Guangzhou. Wachs later claimed they was removed for brandishing signs that read "Free Hong Kong".