Stephen A. Smith

Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce became the subject of controversy last week, inviting criticism for his erratic behavior on a livestream with former teammate Kevin Garnett during Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Pierce, appearing visibly drunk, spoke about a female companion he hired from a Vegas website allowing customers to rent a “girlfriend for a day.” That prompted an uncomfortable Garnett to cut him off, desperately trying to steer the conversation back to basketball.

Many found Pierce’s antics reminiscent of a similar drunken display two years earlier, where he live-streamed a debaucherous poker game with joints being passed around and strippers in view. But earlier this year, when recounting the viral mishap that would ultimately cost him his job at ESPN, the Hall-of-Famer didn’t seem particularly apologetic. In comments on the I Am Athlete podcast (hosted by former NFL stars Brandon Marshall, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy), Pierce showed little remorse for what he described as harmless fun.

“I got fired for having some entertainment. I’m playing cards. It’s my boy’s birthday. There are girls dancing. And we blowing some tree. What did I do wrong?” said Pierce “I didn’t do nothing illegal. But at the end of the day, it’s Disney and they have a morals clause.”

That, along with the Vegas incident, didn’t sit well with Stephen A. Smith. On his The Stephen A. Smith Show Audacy/Cadence 13 podcast, Smith expressed concern for his former ESPN colleague. He said he was disgusted that Pierce—a capable analyst with rare insight—would squander his potential with regrettable lapses unbecoming of an NBA champion.

“You may find it funny. I don’t. I find it kind of sad to be quite honest with you,” said Smith, imploring Pierce to be a better role model for those who idolized him during his Celtics heyday. “That’s the bull**** that irritates the living hell out of me.”

Smith also blamed Pierce for putting Garnett in a compromising position. He said Garnett was forced to answer for his friend’s hedonistic lifestyle, pursuing women and booze at great expense to his career and reputation.

“That’s his brother, his teammate, his friend. He ain’t going to say much on camera,” said Smith. “I’d love to hear what he said to him off camera because Kevin Garnett ain’t one to tolerate that kind of nonsense.”

While others would argue Pierce, as a retired player, has no obligation to set an example for young fans, Smith sees it differently, suggesting the 45-year-old has lost his way, falling victim to the same celebrity trappings that have ensnared Ja Morant, Zion Williamson and others who have seen their image tarnished by off-court behavior.

“See this is the problem, and this is where we cost ourselves as a community when we let stuff like this slide. And I’m speaking out of love,” said Smith, devoting 14 minutes of his podcast to Pierce’s latest scandal. “There’s certain stuff you can’t do. Not when you’re working in corporate America. Damn sure not when you’re working for Disney.”

Pierce still maintains an active media presence, collaborating with Garnett on their podcast Ticket and The Truth. However, his recklessness, bordering on outright defiance, has likely ruined his chances of ever landing another studio job, and has him perhaps forever labeled by the mainstream media as a loose cannon.

“That’s how you want to be seen? You want the image of you being with a drink in your hand, surrounded by strippers or pulling out your phone to summon women that you paid for? With alcohol or weed always around you, slurring your speech? Please stop. You mean too much to the game of basketball,” Smith pleaded. “It’s embarrassing. Come on, bro. You’re better than that.”

[The Stephen A. Smith Show]

About Jesse Pantuosco

Jesse Pantuosco joined Awful Announcing as a contributing writer in May 2023. He’s also written for Audacy and NBC Sports. A graduate of Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s degree in creative writing from Fairfield University, Pantuosco has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut and never misses a Red Sox, Celtics or Patriots game.