In the ongoing war of words between Kevin Durant and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, score one for Durant — well, technically, for Durant’s mother, Wanda.
The “Real MVP” arrived on the network’s “First Take” set before Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday and pretty much stomped Smith’s contention that Durant’s decision to play for Golden State was “the weakest move I’ve ever seen by any superstar in any sport.” Now, Smith wasn’t there to defend himself because his own mother, Janet, died of cancer last week. Durant’s mother made a nice mention of that before calling Smith out.
“Before I get into that, I’d like to send my prayers and condolences out to Stephen A. and his family,” she said. “I know this is a difficult time for them. Let Stephen know, no matter what this is all about that we’re still here for him.”
Which was appropriate and nice. But then she defended her son.
“I thought that was quite harsh. It’s like, ‘Who are you, Stephen A., to come at my boy like that?’ When he came to ESPN? Was that a weak move for him? He joined some more heavy hitters, right? To up his career, right? To do what was best for him. That’s what he did, right? No one called him weak for that. So why call me son weak for doing the same thing he did?”
It seems rather silly to call out an athlete for doing something that media types do all the time, when presented with the opportunity, but Kevin Durant and Smith have a long history of going at each other. As the 2015-16 season was starting, Smith threatened Durant on “First Take,” saying, “You don’t want to make an enemy out of me” when Durant accused him of “lying” about his plans for free agency. Smith later said his comment was misconstrued as a threat. “I’m only stating facts!” he tweeted in his defense.
Last month, Durant was in Smith’s crosshairs again for sympathizing with critics over how Golden State and Cleveland had rolled through the postseason, but then telling them: “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.”
Smith, in his “First Take” hot take, said he now senses arrogance in Durant. “He’s aged. And along the process of aging, he’s gotten more arrogant, he’s gotten more disrespectful, he’s gotten more dismissive, particularly of the fans,” Smith said. “To be quite honest with you, he hasn’t gotten smarter. And the reason why he hasn’t gotten smarter is because the younger Durant would have never said something so flagrantly disrespectful toward fans.”
And, while Smith praised Durant for being a genuine superstar, he took a shot at Durant for failing to appreciate the honeymoon he has gotten because of “injuries, youth, LeBron James” for not winning a championship. The only heat Durant has gotten, Smith pointed out, was over his “weakest” move to Golden State.
“Maybe it’s a product of the fact that you are in your 10th year, and you have to jump on a well-oiled machine already to get yourself a championship,” he said, “because being a superstar that you were still wasn’t good enough to get it done on your own, even with Russell Westbrook as your teammate.”