When Stephen A. Smith and Jay Williams got into a heated debate over Kyrie Irving on First Take, it was personal, not performative.
Last month, after the Brooklyn Nets blew up their attempt at creating a super team by trading Irving to the Dallas Mavericks, Smith and Williams had a blow up of their own on-air. During the First Take segment, Williams accused Smith of being emotional and triggered, while Smith took serious offense to Williams questioning whether his criticism of Irving was personal. The segment was so heated that First Take host Molly Qerim stepped in to question if the debate over Irving had turned into a personal rift between Smith and Williams.
Serious sparks are flying between Stephen A. Smith and Jay Williams over Kyrie Irving pic.twitter.com/Cp7MaSeTQD
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) February 6, 2023
Smith recently joined former Philadelphia sports radio host Mike Missanelli on Missanelli’s BetRivers podcast. During the interview, the First Take host admitted he was upset with Williams after their on-air argument.
“In the case of Jay Williams, I was genuinely pissed off,” Smith said on The Mike Missanelli Podcast. “Jay Williams is a friend and a colleague and somebody that I’m pretty close to. On this particular morning, I don’t know who the hell he was. I don’t know what the hell happened that he would come at me in such a personal manner just because I was giving constructive criticism with Kyrie.”
More than being “pissed off” at the temperature of the debate, it seems like Smith was upset with Williams for accusing him of being “personal” with Irving, despite the fact that Smith admits he has underlying issues with Irving on a personal level.
“Now Kyrie and I have our differences on a personal level, which is none of anybody’s business and I’ll never tell why,” Smith continued. “He knows why. And his daddy knows why. They know how I feel about how they’ve acted towards me and they know how I feel about them and I know how they feel about me. But I can say that to anybody out there because I know that that does not interfere with my reporting on him and my perspective based off of the facts.”
Smith has been highly critical of Irving over the last couple years, blasting his actions off the court and calling him “one of the most delusional athletes in American history.” Smith did, however, defend the polarizing NBA player last year when he felt the Nets were trying to “emasculate” Irving after he failed to disavow antisemitism.
Williams, meanwhile, has been a staunch defender of Irving, with both of them having a unique connection being point guards from New Jersey who played college basketball at Duke.
Despite being “genuinely pissed off” at Williams after their viral First Take segment, Smith has since welcomed him back onto the ESPN show, where their debates have been cordial.