Stephen A. Smith Claims ‘Numerous Coaches’ Questioned The Optics And Timing Of LeBron’s Podcast With JJ Redick

While the Los Angeles Lakers are busy trying to figure out who will be their next basketball coach in the aftermath of Dan Hurley turning down their offer to return to UConn, LeBron James has decided to hop into the podcast game. Earlier this year, James started the “Mind the Game” podcast with ESPN analyst JJ Redick, and the show has received praise for its high-level approach to talking about ball.

Of course, Redick is one of the favorites to earn the Lakers head coaching position, which opened up after the team decided to fire Darvin Ham after two years at the helm. And apparently, the fact that James started a podcast with someone who is now in the running to replace Ham while he was on the hot seat during the season has rubbed some people in the coaching world the wrong way, according to Stephen A. Smith on Monday’s episode of First Take.

“Numerous coaches, Black coaches, called me expressing how they took issue with that podcast taking place,” Smith said about Mind The Game, and went as far as to say there were coaches who felt “very salty about that.”

Molly Qerim interjected and asked a specific question: Was the frustration over this pod because James did the podcast with “a white guy,” or was it because of what this did to Darvin Ham?

“Cause it hurt Darvin Ham, cause it hurt Darvin Ham,” Smith clarified. “So, any of us would do a podcast with LeBron James. Anybody who says otherwise, that they wouldn’t do a podcast with LeBron James, is lying through their damn teeth. I know I would, I know you would, I know anybody would. That would be an honor for us because he’s one of the greatest who have ever played, he’s a basketball savant.

“So, we’re not faulting JJ in any way for doing the podcast, or for the content on the podcast with LeBron James,” Smith continued. “But at some point in time, we do have to do this, Jay. As I said to [Brian Windhorst] last week, we have to remember the things that we’ve said about LeBron James as it pertains to his brilliance, as it pertains to controlling a narrative, as it pertains to being two, three, five steps ahead of others, in terms of what you’re plotting and what you’re planning and what have you. And then that’ll raise an antenna. We knew before the podcast ever started that Darvin Ham was on the hot seat, we knew this.”

Smith pointed out that James and Redick starting the podcast was celebrated on First Take, but started to link together the launch of the podcast with the pressure that came onto Ham, including from Lakers teammate Anthony Davis. Then, when you tie everything together, Smith believes launching the podcast didn’t look all that great.

“Couldn’t have started it during the playoffs?” Smith asked. “Couldn’t have started it after Darvin Ham lost a job? Did you have to start it in the middle of the damn season when he’s on the hot seat? Because why? That’s what some of the coaches were saying.”

Qerim then pushed back on this, saying it’s a bit absurd to suggest that James would go to these lengths to show he didn’t want Ham as his coach, before Smith quickly clarified that wasn’t what he was trying to imply.

“I’m not saying he orchestrated something to push Darvin Ham out the door to get JJ Redick the job, that’s not what I’m saying,” Smith said. “I’m not going there. What I’m saying is you are a person known for being mindful and cognizant of the optics. How could you possibly think that was going to look good?”