ESPN's Stephen A. Smith drew criticism on Wednesday for his handling of an on-air tribute to the late Kobe Bryant.
Stephen A. Smith Uses Kobe Bryant Tribute to Criticize Current NBA Players
Stephen A Smith appeared on First Take Wednesday morning to share his favourite memories of former NBA star Kobe Bryant two years on from his death.
“Players missing games for reasons that have nothing to do with injury,” Smith says in the clip, as footage showing Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving appear on screen, “That was not Kobe Bryant.”
“Players collecting paychecks without regard to regular season participation, that was not Kobe Bryant,” Smith continues. “Players prioritizing any and everything but championships, that was not Kobe Bryant.”
Take a look at the clip.
Stephen A's comments drew plenty of criticism on social media. While Smith did make some legitimate points that are open for debate, the timing here, on the anniversary of Bryant’s death, struck many as tone-deaf and insensitive.
One user tweeted. “Using someone who passed away as a weapon against other playere is not a complainent espically since kobe was sort off like kyries idol”
Another user tweeted. “Stephen A Smith loves using Kobe Bryant and his relationship with the current players to push his own mindset and agenda and jab at them”
Bryant himself was also close with many of the players that Smith criticized. The late L.A. Lakers legend was a mentor to Leonard and often worked out with him in the offseason. Bryant used to mentor Irving as well, and Irving was especially affected by Bryant’s passing.