If there are hot takes flying around on an NBA subject, it’s a good bet that ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has weighed in. But Smith, known for being paid $12 million a year and for being fooled by Ballsack Sports, perhaps topped even himself in absurdity with his rant about the Brooklyn Nets’ Ben Simmons Monday (with Simmons set not to play in Game 4 of the Nets’ series against the Boston Celtics Monday night).
That rant included Smith saying “Nobody is worse than Ben Simmons. Ben Simmons might also be the weakest, most pathetic excuse for a professional athlete we have ever seen in not just American history, but the history of sports.” And it included a whole lot more. Here’s some of Smith’s ranting about Simmons on First Take (there was more, but this is the 5:32 ESPN uploaded to their YouTube channel) Monday, including that “pathetic” bit (at 0:42):
As illustrated there, Smith has a significant history of ranting about the Nets, especially this year. He’s gone after Kyrie Irving (who he starts this segment by bashing, and he later goes on to say “When Russia bombed Ukraine, I thought Kyrie Irving wasn’t going to show up to work”), Kevin Durant, and more. But the way he rips Simmons here is particularly notable, first for him starting with shots at Simmons’ clothes (“Mr. Zoolander”) and then escalating to “the weakest, most pathetic excuse for a professional athlete we have ever seen in not just American history, but the history of sports.”
As with most such “in history” claims, that’s probably not accurate. “Weakest” and “most pathetic” are relatively subjective claims, but there are a whole lot of athletes who have done worse things than not play. Accuracy is not something Smith has proven particularly concerned with over the years, though. As John Oliver summarized in 2019, Smith is “loud, wrong, and tends to take pointlessly dramatic pauses,” and all of that can be seen in this clip.
There’s certainly plenty of room for discussion of Simmons, and discussion of his injury status, and discussion of how much the Nets knew about his injury status when they traded for him. Some of that discussion is logical and reasoned. Some of it’s highly critical, even from surprising sources like TNT’s Reggie Miller. And then there’s what ESPN presents on First Take, which is Smith yelling for five-plus minutes about how Simmons is “the weakest, most pathetic excuse for a professional athlete we have ever seen in not just American history, but the history of sports.” Whether ESPN lives up to their claims of “The Worldwide Leader In Sports” can often be discussed, but on Monday, they were certainly the worldwide leader in over-the-top claims about Ben Simmons’ place in history.