JJ Redick is back on ESPN’s “First Take” taking shots at a fellow sports personality, and Stephen A. Smith was the target Tuesday morning.
The Denver Nuggets made the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers, and LeBron James floating retirement in his postgame presser was a big topic on the show.
Redick, who spent 15 years in the NBA from 2006-2021, gave his take on James’ comments. Smith didn’t really get it.
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“Everything he does is for a reason,” Redick explained. “And whether this is to put a little pressure on the Lakers to improve the roster, whether this is to send a subtweet to his teammates — whatever it is, there’s a reason he does this.
“But I believe there’s some earnesty [sic] in these comments. It’s not just for a calculated reason. He’s coming off Year 20, age 38, a long playoff run where he’s had to play a ton of minutes with an injury, and it’s just human nature that you would begin to say, ‘Oh, maybe I’m nearing the end.’”
“Go ahead, Windy,” Smith told Brian Windhorst, another panelist on the show, when Redick was finished. “I mean, I listened to every word JJ just said. I don’t understand much of what he said, but I listened … I didn’t comprehend, I’m sorry.”
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“Well, you didn’t play, Stephen A.,” Redick replied. “You didn’t play. You don’t understand athletic mortality. Three games at, wherever, South Dakota, Winston-Salem State doesn’t count.”
Redick later apologized for his comments and letting Smith get to him. He didn’t want to disrespect any of the schools he mentioned.
Smith did receive a basketball scholarship from Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, N.C. However, a knee injury in his first year ended his plans to play.
But Smith still got his degree and has made quite the name for himself, especially in the NBA world, over the years.
“I got a degree, and I’m on TV with you. I must be doing something right,” Smith told Redick.
It wasn’t the first time Smith has heard one of his peers call out the fact Smith hasn’t played the game at the highest level, and it may not be the last.
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James said “we’ll see what happens going forward” when asked about his future in the league.
“I’ve got a lot to think about, to be honest. Just for me personally going forward with the game of basketball, I’ve got a lot to think about.”
James will make $46.9 million for the 2023-24 season and $50.6 million the following year. That would have him playing through age 40.
This season, he averaged 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists, and he dealt with injuries, including a foot ailment, that hampered him through the playoffs.