On First Take, Stephen A. Smith called out, well, actually threatened, NBA superstar Kevin Durant over refuting an earlier report by Smith that the Lakers were Durant’s first choice in free agency.
Seemingly addressing Durant directly, Smith said “You do not want to make an enemy out of me. And I’m looking right into the camera.” Except, why should Kevin Durant care what Stephen A. Smith thinks of him? Per Spotrac, Durant is making over $20 million this year in salary alone (he also has endorsements with Nike, Sprint, and 2K, among others) and is in line for a max deal with an inflated salary cap next summer.
Ironically, Durant making an enemy of Smith likely will hurt Smith himself. Durant is influential among players, he’s a deputy publisher at the Player’s Tribune, and an MVP who has earned the respect of peers. It wouldn’t be hard for Durant to limit his appearances on ESPN and perhaps influence teammates from giving exclusive access to the worldwide leader.
Let’s not forget that LeBron James has had issues with ESPN. When LeBron announced his return to Cleveland last summer, he did so through Sports Illustrated. When his teammate, Kevin Love, announced he was resigning with the Cavs this summer, he did so via the Players Tribune. Neither of those players has gone as far as to boycott ESPN, but neither has used it as their main media outlet, and star players make media decisions strategically.
If Durant were to boycott, or even publicly criticize ESPN, it could hurt the network much more than Stephen A. Smith thinks he can hurt Durant.