Last week when Kevin Durant called Stephen A. Smith a liar, and then accused the print journalist and ESPN basketball insider of making up stories, there was going to be hell to pay in this fight that on no level is equal. Playwright and novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, in 1869, wrote, “the pen is mightier than the sword“. The power of that statement has survived generations and uprisings and floods and wars and the digital revolution. Stephen A. Smith will always have the last word. He writes and he is on television.
Predictably, Smith wasn’t in a generous mood Monday morning and as expected he came at Durant with all guns blazing. Perhaps it wasn’t his intent, but Durant did more than toss around a pejorative and call it a day. His words were an attack on Smith’s credibility as a journalist that began with the Winston-Salem Journal, took him to the Philadelphia Inquirer, and now ESPN.
Accuracy, objectivity and being truthful are the ethics of a journalist. To call a journalist a liar is to say they are violating the very basic principles that is the foundation of their job.
When Smith reported that Durant was considering Los Angeles as a free agent destination and Durant balked, Smith was acting as a journalist, repeating information he found accurate. But today on First Take Smith wasn’t acting as a journalist. He was putting Kevin Durant on blast.
These are his comments:
“I’m incredibly happy that this happened on a Friday after First Take. Because I will openly confess to you that had I had to come on the air that next day after reading somebody questioning my credibility and my character, I can promise you it would have been very bad. Kevin Durant is the one that’s lying. I have interviewed Kevin Durant. His rookie year I interviewed Kevin Durant at his home in Seattle. I interviewed him years ago when we were in Orlando for SportsCenter. I’ve talked to him on several occasions, literally within the last year where we’ve run across one another at an arena. Or, one time we saw each other at 40/40 because obviously he’s being repped by Roc Nation right now, no reporting that went on in that regard, just pleasantries and things of this nature.
That statement that he came out with, that was a surprise to me. I had no idea he had any kind of problem with me, whatsoever. I wasn’t aware of it, so it was news to me, that’s point number one.
Point number two is what it comes down to is Kevin Durant is trying to put me in some kind of jacket, or whatever the case may be. Let me be very, very clear my brother, it does not fit. You are in no position to question my credibility whatsoever. As a matter of fact, one would argue what position are you in to question the credibility of anyone in the media, particularly when the last time we heard you say anything of significance it was when you were addressing the media or undressing the media in February and telling them [can y’all put up this quote for America to see]
You guys really don’t know bleep. To be honest man I’m only here talking to y’all because I have to. 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 part of it. So I just learn how to deal with y’all. (Kevin Durant)
Kevin Durant said that in response to idiotic questions he felt the media was asking him about head coach Scott Brooks and his potential tenure because Scott Brooks obviously took them to the playoffs and won 65 games and did a fabulous job in Kevin Durant’s mind, so much so, that the year before Durant’s said- hey, I think this guy should be Coach Of The Year- so he deemed the question ridiculous. That was in February. What happened in April, Skip? Scott Brooks was fired. Okay and now Billy Donovan is coaching so those same people you were talking about, those same people you labeled idiotic, although to your credit you got wise and came back and apologized, ultimately you showed your true feelings. It’s like somebody who’s a bit inebriated, somebody’s who’s speaking their mind and their heart and then they want to turn around and say- you know what, we really apologize- well you really didn’t mean to, you were just upset and the heat that came your way was something you couldn’t deal with.
He(Durant) also went on to say, nobody that he knows really talks to me. Well, his own mother was on this show. HIs brother Tony is someone I run across on many ocassions and the last point I’d like to make is that if nobody speaks to me then maybe you need to check the folks in your inner circle again and ask why did I receive phone calls over this weekend with people telling me let’s chill this little beef that’s going on. So evidently you’re wrong about that too.
Now let’s get to the nitty gritty. And let’s talk about what’s really going on. I sit here today incredibly offended by the personal attack that this man has put against me. Even in the midst of that let me tell you Kevin Durant is a good dude. His family is wonderful. He’s wonderful. There’s nothing negative I have to say about this person as a human being. I’m addressing what he said about me. I am not attacking Kevin Durant.
As I said on my own Twitter account in response to him, the game is better when he is playing. I consider him one of the top two players in the world. How many times have you sat here and heard me say I consider him one of the best professional athletes as a person I have ever met in my life. He is that decent and that good of a young man which is why it disappoints me that I have to sit here and address him the way that I have to address him. Because the reality is that number one, you don’t know who I talk to. Number two, if I’m so wrong why haven’t you signed an extension with the Oklahoma City to stay for years and years to come. Is it not you who alluded to entertaining free agency? Are you saying you are not going to consider the second largest market in the United States of America, particularly when Kobe Bryant is scheduled to depart and it’s clearly a home that Russell Westbrook who starred at UCLA might not mind going to a year after you go? All of these things that I said make absolute sense.
At no time did I say that I spoke to Kevin Durant. At no time did I say that I spoke to people in his inner circle. I recall an individual by the name of LeBron James who wasn’t speaking to anybody but I broke the story that he was going to South Beach. Since when do I need to speak to people that you deem trustworthy individuals to find out what is going on with you?
My career spans 20 plus years. How many reporters do you know have broken as many stories as I have? All these folks that want to talk about me, Washington Post picking up the story, USA Today picking up the story, reputable publications, are we willing to put my resume up against people who are talking about me? He’s just someone who runs his mouth. I don’t show up at NBA arenas? I’m not inside those locker rooms?
And more importantly, what I’d like to ask Kevin Durant and some of the brothers who talk behind my back in the NBA that probably put him up to something stupid like this, do you really want me to come out of this seat and go back on the scene. Do you really want to see me in a NBA arena because I can assure you I can find out more in 10 minutes than I can get in 50 phone calls. I am a black man on national television with a big mouth. I will still stand up here today and put my resume spanning 22 plus years against anybody in this industry.
What I am saying is this. How many times Skip Bayliss have you seen me over the years say, we ain’t getting into personal lives, we ain’t going there, we’ll just talk about their game. Russell Westbrook is a great guy. LeBron James is a role model extraordinairre. Kobe Bryant has overcome a lot. He’s one of the greatest professional athletes I’ve ever seen. I don’t just love Kobe, I revere him. Is there anything else I can say about Dwayne Wade, about how great a person that I think he is. Steph Curry, Chris Paul, etc. But the level of sensiitivity that Charles Barkley and so many others have alluded to is is growing quite alarming. Because somehow, some way everything is personalized. And its got to the point where its utterly ridiculous.
Kevin Durant is the last person on earth that should be going off on the media like that. Not that he’s done anything wrong because the guy is a great person and I still stand here and say that but in this moment in time the NBA is better when Kevin Durant is around. He’s philanthropic. He’s a phenomenal person, not just a player. But the sensitivity that these guys display, the way they are on attack, somebody needs to tell them it’s time you pump the brakes. We don’t have to talk to you to talk about you.
You want to start something. That’s just not the wise thing to do, especially when you have no validity. Just to repeat, I said if Kevin Durant decides to leave OKC, I’m hearing that L.A. is a prime spot that he is considering. Not to say he’s not considering Washington, Miami, New York, whatever. That’s what I heard. I’m not lying. If I were wrong Kevin Durant would have signed his extension with OKC. You being represented by RocNation. I know those boys. They not small timers. They want him because this brother is going to do big things and they are going to see to it that he’s going to do big things. Are you trying to tell me these large markets are not a consideration? I said nothing offensive about him. I will not say anything offensive about him. I still stand here telling you he’s a good dude.
But he’s wrong.
The sensitivity these guys are showing, they are making enemies. They don’t want to make an enemy. You don’t want to make an enemy of me. I’m not having it.”
photo via Wikimedia.org