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#pounditTuesday, May 17, 2022

Stephen A. Smith draws criticism for handling of Kobe Bryant tribute

Stephen A. Smith

Wednesday officially marked two years since Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna, and seven others tragically died in a helicopter accident. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith paid tribute to Bryant in a segment this week, but many were upset with the way that Smith handled it.

ESPN ran a video tribute to Bryant on the air Wednesday as Smith provided a running commentary over the images. During the tribute, Smith criticized several current NBA players for supposedly not being like Bryant, namely Kawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers, Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers.

“Players missing games for reasons having nothing to do with injury. That was not Kobe Bryant,” said Smith. “Players collecting paychecks without regard to regular season participation. That was not Kobe Bryant. Players prioritizing any and everything but championships. That was not Kobe Bryant.”

As Smith spoke, clips of Leonard, Irving, and Simmons aired, leaving no doubt as to who Smith was referring to. Take a look at the clip.

Smith’s comments drew plenty of criticism on social media. While Smith did make some legitimate points that are open for debate, the timing here, on the anniversary of Bryant’s death, struck many as tone-deaf and insensitive.

Bryant himself was also close with many of the players that Smith criticized. The late L.A. Lakers legend was a mentor to Leonard and often worked out with him in the offseason. Bryant used to mentor Irving as well, and Irving was especially affected by Bryant’s passing.

There is a time and a place for comments like the ones Smith made. But using the anniversary of Bryant’s passing to bash others, including some Bryant shared a close bond with, was likely neither the time nor the place.

H/T Complex

Photo: Dec 18, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith broadcasts before a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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