What began as a debate over Kyrie Irving on First Take sounded like it turned into a personal bout between Stephen A. Smith and Jay Williams Monday morning.
After Irving’s tumultuous tenure with the Brooklyn Nets came to an end over the weekend, Smith continued to use First Take to air his grievances with the NBA superstar, while Jay Williams questioned his motives.
During the argument over Kyrie Irving, Smith and Williams went off the rails to discuss the Capitol insurrection, George Floyd, COVID-19, vaccines and antisemitism. During the argument over Kyrie Irving, Smith crudely mocked Williams for saying “interesting,” and he bluntly claimed his opinion is valued more than the former NBA player’s.
Serious sparks are flying between Stephen A. Smith and Jay Williams over Kyrie Irving pic.twitter.com/Cp7MaSeTQD
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) February 6, 2023
“You’re the one saying I’m being sensitive, moaning and whining, but you’re the one that seems very emotional right now over the subject matter,” Williams said. “Come on now. I’m not sitting up here on national TV absolving Kyrie Irving of every decision. I’m just saying how it’s interesting to me, it just carries such a bigger momentum, in particular with you! Moreso than anybody else, Stephen A!”
“Jay, you know what?” Smith asked. “What I would ask you is, do me a favor. Stop telling us what you find interesting and just tell us what you feel. You say, ‘I find it interesting,’ you always say that!” Smith ranted with a mocking tone. “Say what you saying! What are you saying? What are you saying?!”
“I’m not allowed to say what I find interesting?” Williams asked. “I don’t seem to be the one being triggered right now.”
“Oh, I’m always triggered,” Smith responded, a claim that somehow only heightened the tensions during this debate. The declaration prompted an awkward exchange as Williams and Smith went back and forth with “no you’re not,” vs “yes I am” three times before show host Molly Qerim interjected.
“Are we talking about Kyrie, or is this personal?” Qerim asked.
“We’ve both got a lot to say,” Williams said.
“You do?” Smith asked. “Then say it, Jay. Then say it, Jay. Then say it, Jay.”
Williams passed on the offer, noting that he’s a guest on Smith’s First Take. And Qerim quickly took the opportunity to transition the show to the next segment. But it did seem personal. It usually seems personal when Smith talks about Irving. On Monday, however, it sounded like Smith’s issue with Irving was starting to create a rift between him and Williams.
Longtime ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler sat there awkwardly throughout most of the debate as Smith and Williams dominated the segment. Later in the show, Legler was brought back to discuss Irving for a segment, while Williams did not return. Hopefully he’ll be back soon though, because despite Smith’s concern, the issues that Williams “finds interesting” are often a good addition to First Take.