Stephen A. Smith has a soft spot for Chris “Mad Dog” Russo. As a former avid Mike and the Mad Dog listener, I too have a soft spot for Chris Russo. But Smith had him on the ropes Wednesday morning on First Take and he let Dog stumble his way to the sound of the bell.
While debating whether Erik Spoelstra belongs on a list of all-time great NBA head coaches, Russo began spewing a slew of misinformation about the Miami Heat. To Smith’s credit, he called Dog out on the inaccuracies, but he did so more gently than he might have had JJ Redick, Jay Williams, or Max Kellerman been the one sitting across the desk.
“You’re giving him credit for the bubble, but you don’t give LeBron credit for winning the championship in the bubble,” Russo ranted.
Chris Russo didn't have his best moment talking about the Miami Heat on First Take today pic.twitter.com/YEeJQUY9Kn
— Brandon Contes (@BrandonContes) May 18, 2022
Fair argument, but one major problem. Smith never said LeBron’s title with the Lakers doesn’t count.
“That’s not me, I do give him credit. Patrick Beverley didn’t give him credit for the bubble, I give LeBron credit for the bubble,” Smith said. But he never forced Russo to admit the gaffe and instead allowed the iconic sports radio host to stick with the false narrative.
“May I continue,” Russo said before he began to dig himself in an even deeper hole. According to Russo, Spoelstra needs to win without LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, the same way Phil Jackson won without Jordan, and Pat Riley won a title without Magic and Kareem. But he forgot who was on the Heat when Riley won his only non-Lakers title as a head coach.
“He won a championship in Miami, did you forget that? And don’t sit there and tell me that [Tim] Hardaway and [Alonzo] Mourning and that Miami team was that great. That was not a great team,” Russo said.
“Who did he have in Miami?” Smith asked.
“HE HAD MOURNING AND HARDAWAY THAT WAS NOT A GREAT TEAM!” Russo yelled, doubling down on his mistake. Mourning was on Miami’s championship team with Riley, but he was in no way the focal point he was during his first tenure with the Heat.
“No, no, he had Mourning, he had D-Wade and he had SHAQ!” Smith fired back.
Russo began to stumble, and that’s where Smith should have continued to go in for the kill. Instead, Smith allowed Russo to get back up, completely ignore the Mourning/Hardaway blunder, and argue Shaquille O’Neal was washed and Wade was young when the Riley-led Heat won their title against the Mavericks in 2006.
Every sportscaster is bound to make a mistake. But falsely accusing Smith of discrediting the Lakers 2020 title, followed by crediting Pat Riley for winning a non-existent championship with Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway in the span of 60 seconds was a rough beginning to Russo’s return on First Take.