Stephen A. Smith might brand himself as a fearless analyst on First Take, but even he admits Kobe Bryant used to scare the sh*t out of him.
Smith joined Howard Stern Wednesday morning as the First Take host continues his book tour to promote the release of his memoir Straight Shooter. During the wide-ranging interview, Stern asked Smith about becoming popular with athletes and remaining objectively critical of them.
Stephen A. Smith tells Howard Stern about the profane responses he would get from Kobe Bryant after criticizing him on ESPN pic.twitter.com/uqzrZY3QpS
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“Your personal life is your business,” Smith said. “I don’t give a damn who you are, you can always come to me to tell me your story. If you tell me to shut the hell up and don’t say a word, I will not say a word. You tell me not to divulge it publicly, I will never betray your trust, I’m that dude, I’m made of that cloth. But what you do on the field or court of play in front of thousands in attendance and millions watching, that’s my domain and what you’re not gonna do is compromise telling me what the hell I saw.”
Stern asked if Smith ever received phone calls from players complaining about his commentary on ESPN and the First Take host offered a detailed recount of voicemails he used to get from the late Kobe Bryant.
“Kobe, God rest his soul. Now he scared me. Kobe scared the living sh*t out of me,” Smith admitted. “Kobe was a savant. You did not know more basketball than Kobe Bryant. So when Kobe Bryant called you to complain, and I can quote him. I miss him so much. I can quote him for you right now.
“Voicemail. ‘You know who this is mother*cker. Get your ass up, pick up the f*cking phone and call me back. That bullsh*t you just said. And don’t keep me waiting. Your ass better not go on the air and say some other sh*t before you talk to me.’”
Smith said he could expect a voicemail like that from Bryant after he criticized the NBA superstar’s shot selection or accused him of playing selfish basketball. Bryant would always call to offer his rebuttal, which usually included detailed analysis and a lot of profanity for Smith.
“I have no idea why I love your ass, I really don’t,” Bryant would tell Smith. “You go on the air and you say that shit again, I’m calling you to curse your ass out.”