With the considerable help of Kevin Durant, the Warriors settled a score with the Cavaliers on Monday by winning the NBA championship. Durant’s mother Wanda got her own victory the next day, wringing an apology out of Stephen A. Smith — with the considerable help of a boisterous, pro-Warriors audience on the set of “First Take.”
Wanda Durant and Smith had gone back-and-forth over the ESPN personality’s criticism of her son, most notably Smith’s description of the offseason defection from the Thunder to the Warriors as “the weakest move I have ever seen by any superstar in any sport.” In a “First Take” appearance earlier this month, she had asked, “Who are you, Stephen A., to come at my boy like that?” but it was a rhetorical question, as Smith was not a part of that day’s show.
Don't give a damn what anyone says: weak move by KD. You go to GSW, the team who beat you, when you're already on a title contender? Please!
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 4, 2016
On Tuesday, with that move thoroughly vindicated (in the eyes of the Durant family, at least) by the all-star forward’s performance against Cleveland, which included earning Finals MVP honors while winning his first ring, Wanda Durant arrived at the “First Take” set ready to see a certain someone eat a healthy heaping of crow.
“If I had a mic I would drop it,” Durant said, as Smith laughed. “It’s over. My son said it last night. He said it.”
In accepting his Finals MVP trophy Monday, Durant had looked over at his mother and told her, “We did it. I told you when I was eight years old — we did it.” At a subsequent news conference, he responded to a question about criticism over joining the already-powerful Warriors by saying, “Yeah, I hear all the narratives throughout the season that I was joining, I was hopping on bandwagons, I was letting everybody else do the work. But then that was far from the truth.
“I came in and tried to help my team. There’s some games I might not get shots, as many shots as I’m used to getting. … But nobody cared, as long as we won.”
“Just read my shirt,” Wanda Durant told Smith. “It says it all.”
“It says ‘NBA champions,’ ” Smith conceded. He went on to tell Durant, “Your son is a champion, he deserves props for that.”
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) June 13, 2017
“Keep in mind I did say he would be the MVP, and he showed up,” Smith told Durant. “Now, you got on me because I said the move to go to Golden State was weak, but … I still sit up there and say, ‘I don’t back off that statement,’ because of the reason I made the statement.
“He’s so great. He’s so great, joining that team, to me, was almost unfair. And we’ve witnessed his greatness and how lopsided it made things. That’s all.”
Durant replied that she didn’t “agree” with the “lopsided” assessment, saying, “He’s one player.” She asked, “Was the East lopsided when LeBron [James] went to Miami?”
At that point, Smith’s partner Max Kellerman jumped in and noted that, yes, James did tilt the conference’s balance of power when he joined the Heat in 2010, just as Durant did with his move to the Warriors last summer. Smith then extolled Durant as “always a model citizen, always class … always has been an elite player, and now he’s a champion.”
“My issue is competition,” Smith continued. “My issue is, ‘Oh my goodness, somebody tipping the scales.’ ”
“I just think that Kevin has a certain talent, and it shouldn’t be watered down by anybody, or where he plays,” Durant said. ” … I don’t think it’s fair to minimize what Kevin offers Golden State, and what they offered him, to say that it was the weakest move in NBA history.”
“I think you’re wrong, you’re too harsh.”
With “First Take” on location in Oakland, Calif., it wasn’t long before the boisterous crowd surrounding the set began chanting, “Say you’re sorry! Say you’re sorry!”
Smith relented, although not without making clear that his apology was meant to make Durant, specifically, feel better. “For you — I’m sorry,” he said.
After the two shook hands, with the crowd cheering, Durant took one more victory lap. “No harsh feelings,” she told Smith, “but I did want to kind of give you a spanking.”