Move over, Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe. The sports-talk world had another feuding pair to watch in disbelief on Monday: ESPN host Stephen A. Smith and analyst Jay Williams on “First Take.” (Watch the videos below.)
The two got personal in a snipe fest over Kyrie Irving after the Nets traded the star guard to the Dallas Mavericks. Sports Illustrated called their cringey debate “beautifully awkward TV.”
“You get plenty of time of to talk on this show. ... What a bunch of B.S. you talking right now!” Smith said in shooting down Williams’ complaint about being unable to make a point.
“Just because you label it B.S. doesn’t make it B.S., Stephen A. Smith,” Williams said.
Irving sparked the verbal tiff by ending another stormy tenure with an NBA team. He refused to get vaccinated and was forced to miss dozens of games last season. He promoted an antisemitic movie on Twitter this season, which earned him a team-imposed suspension, and requested a trade last week after the Nets had developed into contenders.
Smith was fed up — with Irving and with Williams, who appeared to defend fellow Duke alum Irving at times.
Williams baited Smith further. “But you’re the one that seems very emotional,” Williams said, pivoting to Smith’s forceful reactions to Irving. “I’m just saying how it’s interesting to me; it just carries such a bigger momentum in particular with you, more so than anybody else.”
“Stop telling us what you find interesting and just tell us what you feel,” Smith lashed back.
“You say, ‘I find it interesting,’” Smith continued in a high-pitched mocking of Williams’ voice. “You always say that. Say what you saying. What are you saying? What are you saying?”
Poor Molly Qerim tried to steer the two into a more focused debate, but nothing doing. Qerim summarized Williams’ argument that Smith is too preoccupied with Irving. Smith took exception and yelled that he’s been discussing football recently.
Williams then told Smith he seemed to be triggered. Uh-oh.
“I’m always triggered,” Smith replied.
“No, you’re not,” Williams said.
“Oh yes I am,” Smith answered, continuing a schoolyard-level exchange.
Qerim tried to mediate again, telling the two she didn’t want the discussion to be personal. Williams piped up to tell Smith he was getting personal about Irving.
“You of all people ... have the nerve to tell me on national television I’m getting personal about a player?” Smith said. “I’m passionate about the subjects I’m passionate about.”
When Williams noted that he was the guest and that Smith was the host, tempers finally cooled.
“We’re all colleagues, we’re all teammates,” Qerim said.
Not today, Molly.