ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith is not letting up on his verbal jabs toward the Brooklyn Nets over their decision to allow Kyrie Irving to play as a part-time player, leading to a heated exchange with Jay Williams on Wednesday’s edition of First Take.
Smith has been one of the loudest critics of Irving’s decision not to get vaccinated and Brooklyn relenting last month to allow Irving back to play for road games only. New York’s vaccine mandate prohibits Irving from playing any home games at the Barclays Center.
The ESPN talking head has even said on air that if the Nets were to win an NBA title this season with Irving as a part-time player it would be bad for the game of basketball. It was a comment that Smith repeated on Wednesday’s show.
“Kyrie Irving being available for just road games and him playing for the Brooklyn Nets under those conditions,” Smith loudly started to exclaim. “After initially saying you’re all in or you’re all out, I believe that if the Brooklyn Nets win the championship it would be bad for basketball.”
The well-known ESPN analyst also said the Nets “capitulated” to Irving and Smith referred to the seven-time NBA All-Star as the “part-time player” on several occasions.
The conversation between Smit and Williams continued to get more heated as the focus became more transfixed on Irving. The two ESPN personalities have differed on their opinion of how Irving and the Nets have handled the vaccine issue.
“You use this word all the time. You know I watch all your rankings, every single weekend, with NFL teams, you say, ‘IT’S FLUID!’” Williams said. “Isn’t life fluid, Stephen A.? Isn’t there a different way we felt a couple months ago compared to how we feel right now? Doesn’t that deserve to be in this scenario?”
First Take host Molly Qerim briefly jumped in to inform Williams that he had a radio appearance he had to make and that they had to leave the conversation there.
“It’s starting to become a big issue with me on how I feel you omit Kyrie every single day,” Williams continued. “You’re attacking this man’s character left and right every single day.”
Wednesday was just the latest round of comments from Smith, who made similar comments earlier in the week on First Take about the Nets and Kevin Durant “capitulating” to Irving’s wishes. Kendrick Perkins took it a step further on First Take this week.
“The guys that are in that are in the locker room for the Brooklyn Nets, they’re soft,” Perkins said. “They’re soft, starting with KD and James because if they had any type of oomph about themselves, they would actually say, ‘Hey dog, look here man this is what’s going on.’ I don’t want to hear from KD in the interview saying, ‘Oh man, Kyrie a grown man, we have to respect his decisions.’ No, call him out.
“Because teams that I was on, if we had a guy doing this and we knew we needed help for a time we would call him out on it as a team. We would call him out every single day he would hear from us until he would get tired of it. Yes, Kyrie is a grown man and he makes his own decision. I get that point. But at the end of the day Kevin Durant and James Harden, especially, they have to stop being so damn friendly when it comes to Kyrie Irving.”