Stephen A. Smith ESPN First Take Screen grab: ESPN ‘First Take’

Across sports media, the reaction to Draymond Green’s latest on-court incident has largely been the same: that the Golden State Warriors star needs to address whatever has caused him to be involved in multiple physical altercations over the course of the past year.

On Wednesday’s episode of First Take, however, Stephen A. Smith opted to take the conversation in a different direction, questioning where Stephen Curry has been from a leadership standpoint.

“What about Steph Curry? You are the leader. If this were a teammate of LeBron James, we’d be asking, ‘LeBron, what you gonna do about it?’ even though LeBron isn’t the one who did something like that,” Smith said. “Somehow, someway, we never ask that question about the babyface assassin who’s the greatest shooter on the planet Earth, who’s a four-time champion and a two-time league MVP. Who by the way is class personified and I can’t think of a greater role model than Steph Curry.

“If we require it of everybody else, why hasn’t it been required of Steph Curry?… He’ll definitely say something privately. But I’m talking about the public demand that would be placed on others, somehow, someway, we don’t do that with Steph Curry, who is the quintessential role model.”

Not only did Smith’s take provide a break from the monotonous chorus of “Draymond has to do better” takes that followed his latest fight, but it was also fair — if not relatively benign.

Curry’s coach, however, didn’t see it that way, taking aim at unnamed critics who used Green’s on-court antics as an opportunity to question Curry.

“Steph is as good of a leader as I’ve ever been around… for anybody to question Steph Curry’s leadership, it’s kind of sickening to me. And I saw some of that yesterday. It was disgusting,” Kerr told reporters. “We’re talking about one of the finest human beings I have ever been around. But that’s the climate that we live in.”

Kerr didn’t mention Smith by name, but it would be fair to assume that’s who his ire was directed toward. And that’s certainly how Smith, himself, received the comments, which he responded to in epic fashion on Friday’s First Take.

“Steve Kerr didn’t mention me by name. I’ll mention Steve Kerr by name. I’m disgusted with him,” Smith said. “No one is questioning Steph Curry as a leader. What we said was, ‘If that were LeBron James we would have said, ‘Where are you?” So in this particular instance, we’re not talking behind the scenes. We’re talking out front and center. We were asking Steph Curry, ‘Where are you on this? Because you’re such a great leader. Because you’re such a phenomenal leader. Because you’re the closest thing to perfection that I think most of us have ever seen as a professional athlete. We’re asking about the impact that you’ve seemingly been unable to have on a teammate who loves and reveres you, like Draymond Green. But Steve Kerr twisted it.

“I don’t even want to use the words that I’m tempted to in terms of him fawning over Steph Curry. We all fawn over Steph Curry. Why would you try to twist it like that? You trying to tell me that Steph Curry’s not a human being, that every single thing about him is absolutely positively perfect? That we can’t sit here while revering him and and respecting him and appreciating everything about him, we can’t sit here and simply say, ‘Yo, you of all people, you might be able to have an impact on Draymond Green.'”

Smith’s rant ultimately lasted more than four minutes and is well worth the watch. It also included a response to Kerr’s allegation that any criticism of Curry is an indication of the current media climate.

“You didn’t say my name, but I don’t need clickbait,” Smith said. “We’ve been No. 1 for 12 years. With or without YouTube, with or without social media, we’ve been No. 1, period.”

Smith is ultimately right that his take regarding Curry was more nuanced that Kerr made it out to be — although it’s also understandable why the four-time champion head coach took issue with a take that the First Take‘s own YouTube page labeled as “Stephen A. QUESTIONS Steph Curry’s leadership with Draymond Green,” along with the the eyeballs emoji. While it would be tough to dispute Smith’s stance that Curry, for all his accolades, gets held to a different standard than his peers, it’s also not a surprise that Kerr would publicly stick up for his star player.

And it’s even less of a surprise that Smith didn’t back down.

[First Take]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.