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Stephen A. Smith Gives Masterful Performance During Heated Kyrie Irving Debate With Jay Williams: TRAINA THOUGHTS

1. When Stephen A. Smith appeared on the SI Media Podcast last September, I asked him whether it was fair or unfair to characterize what he does on First Take each day as “performance art.”

“I don’t think about it that way,” he responded. “I’m not gonna say it’s unfair. I can understand that interpretation. I would tell you that we’re in a personality-driven business. The ‘E’ in ESPN stands for entertainment. I get that part of it. It doesn’t offend me in the slightest. My biggest thing is just making sure, just don’t forget my resume. That’s what I tell people. Even the critics and cynics. Don’t forget my résumé.”

Well, I’m glad Smith doesn’t get offended by the performance-art characterization because he gave an all-time performance Wednesday while debating Jay Williams about Kyrie Irving.

As is often the case on hot take shows, the panelists were all over the place. The conversation began with Stephen A. questioning Williams for saying the Nets shouldn’t try to get home court advantage in the playoffs because the unvaccinated Irving wouldn’t be allowed to play in Brooklyn because of New York State’s vaccine mandate. The conversation ended with Williams accusing Smith of attacking Irving. And in between, Stephen A. continually flustered Williams with one liners and general snarkiness.

Let me try to summarize the nine-minute back-and-forth.

During the first 90 seconds, Williams attempts to lay out his theory on why the Nets would be fine without home court advantage. Stephen A. then goes right into performance mode and asks, very slowly, in a voice that was barely above a whisper, if Williams is advocating for the Nets to lose games.

An already flustered Williams then asked for some water.

This caused Smith to taunt Williams, saying, “I love the fact that this is frustrating you.”

Williams then asks Smith some questions about the Nets’ situation. Instead of answering them, Smith accuses Williams of “turning into Mike Wallace or Ed Bradley.”

Smith then uses the phrase, “the part-time player that is Kyrie Irving.”

This really got to Williams who fired back, “You’re so fixated on the ‘part-time’.”

Williams then said he was “disappointed” in Smith for saying it would be terrible for basketball if the Nets won a title this year and that he would pray for Smith.

Williams then tried to mess with Smith by mocking him for using the world
“capitulated,” which led to Smith saying, “I didn’t go to Duke, but I’m intelligent.”

Williams was so rattled at this point he took off his sports jacket and got personal with Stephen A, saying, “You start this kind of stuff.”

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He also said Smith’s bashing of Kyrie has become “a big issue” for Williams. “You are attacking this man’s character left and right every day,” said Williams.

This set off Smith, who went into full yelling mode, saying, “I don’t give a damn if it’s a big issue with you. I don’t give a damn if you talk about it every morning. I don’t give a damn what you think I think about Kyrie Irving. I spit facts. FACTS!”

Williams countered that with, “Just because Stephen A. yells it doesn’t make it right.”

The battle concluded with the show’s cohost, Molly Qerim, telling Williams the segment had to end because he was due to make a radio appearance, which led to Williams accusing Smith of setting him up.

What a roller-coaster ride. Strap yourself in and enjoy it.

2. A new SI Media Podcast dropped Thursday, and this week’s guest is Jim Nantz. Topics covered include calling end of the wild Niners-Cowboys’ wild-card game, the QB who he thinks would be a huge TV star, his philosophy on working with Tony Romo, John Madden memories, why he likes wearing CBS sports coat and much more.

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify and Stitcher.

3. “This a big, goofy-ass dude at quarterback.” Bills safety Jordan Poyer was miked up for the team’s blowout playoff win against the Patriots, and he couldn't stop talking about quarterback Josh Allen.

4. You may have seen the story over the weekend about Bengals coach Zac Taylor celebrating the team's wild-card win over the Raiders by giving a game ball to fans at a local bar. According to Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah the 38-year-old Taylor was actually carded before being allowed into that bar.

5. Giannis cracking himself up while telling an awful joke is just so endearing.

6. Pepsi has released a trailer for this year’s Super Bowl halftime show featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar.

7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: West Virginia reporter Tori Yorgey was hit by a car on live TV Wednesday, which somehow didn’t generate much of a reaction from the studio anchor she was speaking with at the time.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on AppleSpotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.