One of the best things going for ESPN right now is their addition of JJ Redick and now CJ McCollum as authoritative NBA voices who go on First Take and refuse to let it slide when Stephen A. Smith (or Mad Dog or anyone else) goes off the rails.
Instead of trying to simply out-yell Smith, which is impossible to do because he is the king of sports yelling and gets you into trouble, they just very calmly pick apart his argument and it clearly drives Stephen A. crazy. The latest example of this came on Tuesday morning while discussing Darvin Ham’s Lakers press conference and where the team can go next year, with Smith saying they can be a playoff team but not much more before launching into a tangent about how he didn’t like Russell Westbrook being at Ham’s presser, which caused Redick and McCollum’s ears to perk up.
After letting Smith go for almost three uninterrupted minutes, Redick and McCollum proceeded to tag-team Smith over his “random, random take” that had Smith pressed and trying to explain himself, while McCollum wanted them to roll the tape to remind Smith of what he just said (2:58 mark of the above video for when Redick jumps in).
“So you said a random, random take,” Redick pressed. “And then you explained a bunch of things about Russell Westbrook that had nothing to do with that take. So I want clarification on something. What is your issue with Russell Westbrook being at that news conference? You did not explain that well at all Stephen A.”
“That’s a wild thing for you to say,” McCollum jumped in with. “Him supporting his team, his organization, his coach, a fellow African-American man who got hired by the Los Angeles Lakers. This is what you said! … You said that him going to the press conference, you’re disappointed in that? Run the tape. We got the tape. That’s what you said. … Even if you didn’t mean it the way I said it, you said that he shouldn’t have been at that press conference, that’s foul.”
It really is incredible television and the new version of First Take where they bring in a rotating group of guests to spar with Stephen A. rather than just him and Max Kellerman yelling for three hours really has been terrific for the show. I hope this continues and also think the next evolution of the show is to have a stenographer in the corner like a courtroom frantically transcribing the entire show so that at any time someone can demand another person’s comments be read back to them verbatim. I think that would add an extra layer of drama to the proceedings and also be hilarious if someone was to read back Stephen A.’s wildest arguments to him in a dry, flat voice.