Wanda Durant on First Take

ESPN First Take co-host Stephen A. Smith has had a long-running feud with Golden State Warriors’ star Kevin Durant, threatening Durant on-air in October 2015, and more recently saying he “ruined the season” with his move to the Warriors and that he was becoming “more arrogant” and “more disrespectful.” On a special Sunday edition of First Take in Oakland ahead of Game Two of the NBA Finals (the first of seven First Take hour-long specials airing from the sites of the Finals), Durant’s mother Wanda joined the show, and while Smith wasn’t there (he’s taking time off following the death of his mother), she still had strong words for him:

This started with Molly Qerim asking Durant about Stephen A.’s criticisms of her son, specifically in relation to when he called Durant’s move to Golden State “the weakest move in NBA history.” Durant then began her answer by sending her prayers to Stephen A. and his family, but then shot back with criticisms of her own:

“Before I get into that, I’d like to send my prayers and condolences out to Stephen A. and his family. 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.

Now, with that being said…..I thought [what he said] was quite harsh. It’s like, ‘who are you, Stephen A., to come at my boy like that?’ I think about 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?”

That’s a great criticism and an excellent point, one that extends well beyond Stephen A. to much of the sports media. The same media types who regularly criticize players’ free-agency moves are often making similar decisions, either to take a more lucrative offer or a job that’s a better fit. And they don’t recognize the hypocrisy of that, but Wanda Durant sure does. The funny part is that Stephen A. in particular often puts himself on a pedestal, trying to elevate himself to the level of the athletes he covers, but he can’t recognize that he makes similar moves to them. This is some solid stuff from Durant, and much better analysis than we typically see on First Take. (She’s also probably better at picking the NBA Finals than Stephen A., but that’s an extremely low bar.)

However, the sad part is that even insightful criticism of First Take and the terrible opinions Smith and others regularly offer there still has the net effect of promoting the show. And that’s why the First Take producers are happy to have critics like Durant come on from time to time, and to promote those clips afterwards. Check out their social media tweets Sunday:

So, yeah, this is still working out for First Take in the long run. But for at least one moment Sunday, their airwaves were filled with smart criticism of the hot takes Stephen A. regularly trots out rather than those hot takes themselves. That’s one little victory for viewers, and we’ll take it.

[For The Win

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.