Stephen A. Smith on First Take Photo credit: ESPN

LeBron James and JJ Redick launched a podcast during the NBA season that excited basketball fans, but Stephen A. Smith believes it undermined Darvin Ham.

James and Redick teamed up for their basketball-centric Mind the Game podcast in March, a chance for fans to see basketball through the lens of two high-IQ players. On the surface, it seemed like an opportunity for Redick to talk the X’s and O’s of basketball, which is something he has a passion for and is something debate shows don’t really allow. For LeBron, the new podcast seemed like another step in preparing for life after the NBA. Smith, however, thinks the timing of the podcast launch may have been more calculated than that.

“JJ is a different situation because of the situation LeBron James and his camp created by doing that podcast in the middle of the season knowing that Darvin Ham was on the hot seat,” Smith said Thursday morning on First Take. “I don’t care what anybody says, that was a very egregious thing to do…I’m not talking about the podcast itself, I’m talking about the timing.”

Smith noted that he wouldn’t have an issue with the podcast if Redick and LeBron started it after the Lakers were eliminated, but they chose to launch Mind the Game while Ham was in Los Angeles coaching for his job.

“LeBron James is his own man,” Smith continued. “You’re wearing the Lakers uniform, you are a player, you know your coach is on the hot seat. And deciding to do a podcast about games, about basketball with specifics in mind, schemes, and how you coach…while your coach is on the hot seat and you knew the Lakers would more than likely be looking for a coach the next season, is one of the most egregious things we have seen a basketball player do to a coach, that is a fact.”

Smith focused most of his rant on LeBron, but if he’s claiming the podcast was a way of undercutting the Lakers head coach, then Redick deserves equal blame as he now attempts to succeed Ham in Los Angeles.  There’s a possible chicken-and-egg aspect to this scenario. Did LeBron seek to prove Redick could be a better head coach than Ham, so he started this podcast? Or did doing the podcast cause LeBron to believe Redick could be a better head coach than Ham?

Maybe Smith chose to direct his rant at LeBron because Redick remains his colleague at ESPN. That might change in the near future if Redick receives an offer to be the next head coach of the Lakers, but for now, he is still employed by ESPN.

The podcast wasn’t a great look for Ham. But if LeBron ultimately wanted the Lakers to replace Ham with Redick, why does the NBA’s all-time leading scorer need to be so coy about it? LeBron should hold enough clout with the Lakers at this point to get Redick an interview. The idea that he needs to create a podcast to undermine Ham and highlight Redick’s basketball IQ seems bizarre.

[First Take]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to