Stephen A. Smith gets on people’s nerves, he gets on his audience’s nerves, he gets on his critics’ nerves, he gets on JJ Redick’s nerves, and he doesn’t care.
Tuesday morning on First Take, Redick attempted to offer the athlete’s perspective on what’s going through LeBron James’ mind after the 38-year-old NBA superstar revealed he’s contemplating retirement. Smith, however, didn’t love Redick’s roundabout route to giving an answer. After Smith called out his colleague for not being direct enough, Redick responded with the tired narrative of “you didn’t play,” a take he later apologized for.
Redick later offered up an apology to Stephen A for his earlier comments.
Is this friction intended, healthy, and all in the game. Or are these two genuinely starting to wear on each other? pic.twitter.com/WtTRQh9KJr
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 23, 2023
After the back and forth between the First Take debate partners went viral, Smith addressed the issue on his Know Mercy podcast, claiming there is no issue, because he has no problem being a person who gets on people’s nerves.
“When you’re somebody like me who announces to the world, ‘I don’t give a damn about popularity contests,’ you don’t necessarily expect to be popular,” Smith said. “And sometimes you’re gonna agitate people and you’re gonna get on their last damn nerves. And there’s a few times this year that I have done that to JJ Redick. I don’t give a damn. I could care less. Because that’s what First Take is all about. Real, true, authentic conversation about issues that permeate the world of sports and beyond.”
Since joining ESPN in 2021, Redick, who is a great ambassador for the NBA’s product, has also become a staple on First Take for his desire to seek and destroy bad media narratives. Even though that style can lead to heated moments on First Take at times, Smith loves Redick’s entertainment value and honesty.
“I love JJ Redick because JJ is always JJ, unapologetically,” Smith continued on his podcast. “He’s gonna say what he feels, he’s gonna mean what he says. He ain’t one of them phony, inauthentic asses that smiles in your face, and sits there and stabs you in the back at every turn. If JJ don’t like something you said, he’ll look you right in your face and tell you.”
Nothing but love. So much for a bubbling media feud between Smith and Redick, at least for now. And just as Smith doesn’t care if he irritates Redick on First Take, he similarly doesn’t care if Redick throws it back at him, like he did Tuesday morning.
“JJ Redick on First Take is nothing that I haven’t asked him to be. He is authentic, he is knowledgeable and smart as hell. Sometimes he could come across as arrogant as sh*t, and I love that too,” Smith added. “He is always welcome to come at me. And if he steps out of line or does something that gets a little personal, I’ll check his ass, just like he’d check me. That’s why First Take’s number one.”