ESPN’s “First Take” is often a shouting match between the infamous Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, but on the rare occasion that Smith speaks in a serious and offended tone, it certainly lights up the ratings. In the latest incident, superstar NBA forward Kevin Durant called Smith a liar after he reported that sources close to Durant believed he will be likely to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2016.
Currently a forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant is in the final year of his contract and is coming off a season-ending injury. He is three years removed from a trip to the NBA Finals, despite being part of equally talented, if not better, teams during the past three years. Suffice it to say, Durant has plenty of reasons to leave, especially if new Head Coach Billy Donovan does not show promise and development in the Thunder this season.
Still, Durant has given no indication that he will leave OKC. On the other hand, he has given no indication he’s going to stay, either. Baseless speculation shouldn’t really be the name of the game when it comes to Smith’s “credibility,” which Smith has said has been questioned by Durant. When Smith reported that the Lakers were Durant’s prime landing spot, Durant responded with what many fans and critics are calling an immature response.
“I don’t talk to Stephen A. Smith at all,” Durant said in an interview with The Oklahoman on Oct. 2. “Nobody in my family, my friends, they don’t talk to Stephen A. Smith. So he’s lying … I have people who I talk to about everything and I know for a fact they didn’t talk to him, so he’s making up stories.”
However immature people think Durant was for simply speaking his mind, Smith’s response was even more unwarranted. While his show, “First Take,” has gained a reputation for bloviating and catering to the most controversial opinions possible, Smith should have been able to be the bigger person and restrain himself from saying something so controversial and downright uncalled for.
“The sensitivity that these guys are showing, they are making unnecessary enemies,” Smith said on his show Oct. 5. “I am not one of them. I won’t be. I got too much love and respect for who these guys are, and what they mean to my community. But I will say this lastly: You don’t want to make an enemy out of me. And I’m looking right into the camera. And I will say it again: You do not want to make an enemy out of me. I’m not having it. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
An enemy out of whom? I mean, Smith is respected in both ESPN and professional journalism circles, but for a lot of people, this was an unnecessary and just frankly ridiculous threat to a player who probably could not care less about a media feud.
But that’s where this story takes its most unusual turn; everything Durant does makes it seem like he actually does care. Back in February, Durant took aim at the media and said he only talked to them out of necessity.
“To be honest, man, I’m only here talking to y’all because I have to,” Durant said to the media during All-Star Weekend. “So I really don’t care. Y’all not my friends. You’re going to write what you want to write. You’re going to love us one day and hate us the next. That’s a part of it. So I just learn how to deal with y’all.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love Durant as a player, and he is arguably the second-best player in the world behind LeBron James. But there’s a reason that James, as well as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan before him, were able to achieve such a massive hold on the media and fan base. In addition to being three of the best basketball players of their generations, they were also masters of the media. They said the right things, they let the media speculate as much as they wanted and they never really slandered the voices that sung their praises.
Despite being controversial figures for one reason or another, those three icons made the media love them; Durant is doing the opposite. In fact, he’s destroying the reputation the media built for him coming out of college. He was always portrayed as a nice guy, but he has done little to improve or bolster that image. Fine, he wants to brand himself with a different image, but going about it by trashing the media and lashing out at prominent media members isn’t exactly going to win him any fans. In fact, if he’s so tired of being second all the time, then maybe he should try using the media to his advantage like the three players I mentioned, the ones who have actually won championships.
In the meantime, Stephen A. Smith should probably tone it down a notch. Then again, he wouldn’t be Stephen A. if he did.
Paolo Santamaria is a sophomore in the College. Saxa Synergy appears every Friday.
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