“Let’s Confront One Another One-On-One For The World To See” | Stephen A. Smith Says Kyrie Irving Is Hiding Behind His Fame, Ducking The Smoke

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One of the NBA’s most popular stars is in a war of words with the most powerful on-air talent at the league’s biggest broadcast partner. Brooklyn Nets’ guard Kyrie Irving and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith are engaged in a war of words via Twitter.

This stems from Irving’s attempt at leverage over the Nets to secure a long-term maximum contract extension. Smith was against the Nets giving Irving a long-term deal due to the mercurial guard’s unreliability.

The back-and-forth via Twitter had Smith challenging Irving to a one-on-one debate. Is this a good thing for the NBA?

When Irving exercised his player option, because he had no leverage, Smith posted a video to Twitter.

Irving responded by saying he doesn’t understand Smith because he doesn’t know many 50-plus-years olds that act the way Smith does. Irving added that his father and uncles might be better to communicate with, in what seemed like a veiled threat.

Smith responded by challenging Irving to a debate.

“Oh, you’ve got it twisted bro! Big time! I don’t have to explain a damn thing to anyone – ESPECIALLY you and your father,” wrote Smith. “Either way, I have a wish: ONE DAY you’ll stop hiding behind the public support you receive and fess up to the shenanigans you engage in…leaving folks hanging like laundry. Be honest about what you’ve truly been doing. Until then, let’s confront one another 1-on-1 for the WORLD to see – your TRUTH up against mine in a public forum for everyone to judge.”

This back-and-forth is ridiculous but will likely give “First Take” and any other platforms Smith is on increased ratings. Drama fuels #NBATwitter and to have it go down just as the free agency period is set to begin is the perfect confluence of events.

The Nets were unwilling to commit to Irving long-term because of his unreliability. So they called Irving’s bluff and dared him to opt out of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent and see if he could facilitate a sign and trade. He couldn’t, that’s why he exercised his option. Now that $36 million is an expiring deal and the Nets can still move him.

It is Irving’s lack of commitment that doesn’t sit well with Smith. The ESPN talking head acknowledges Irving’s brilliance as a player and what he’s accomplished in his career as an NBA champion. But Irving doesn’t “show up to work,” as Smith famously says.

It will be hard for Irving, if he were to ever engage in a debate with Smith, to refute that part. In his three seasons with the Nets he’s played in only 103 out of 226 possible games. Between his injuries, vaccine refusal and unexcused absences, it’s easy to question Irving’s commitment level.

Like he tried to do with the Nets, Irving wants to control the narrative with Smith. Irving wants to turn Smith’s comments into a larger macro referendum on the treatment of athletes by the media.

This debate will never happen, but there will be plenty of content over the next few weeks.