Stephen A. Smith has been on the receiving end of plenty of criticism of late, especially from Kevin Durant. ESPN's biggest star is known for his somewhat controversial takes on various shows on the network and he claimed previously that Michael Jordan changed basketball for the worse.
That prompted Durant to tweet out that Smith, Skip Bayless, and Shannon Sharpe have changed the game for the worse. Durant then took a shot at Smith after he was got roasted by CJ McCollum and JJ Redick on First Take by stating that Steve can't beat up on Max Kellerman, the Boxing guy anymore. Smith took some time to defend himself from the recent criticism on the "Old Man & the three" podcast by stating that no one defends athletes more than he does.
"One of the reasons I can jump all over an athlete is because I'll challenge anybody to find somebody who defends athletes more than me, other than the athletes themselves. And I'm talking about a career where it's not just what I do on camera or on the microphone or radio or in a newsroom for a television network or print newspaper. What I've done behind the scenes to fight to make sure athletes got a fair shake, I'll put my record up against anybody."
"People don't realize how many stories I've stopped from getting printed stopped from getting publicized or whatever just because it was grossly unfair and it was very presumptuous and we had no business in the industry doing those kind of things so when you know you're fighting those battles you know there's a level of influence that comes along with it. So when somebody tries to come along and be like what the hell you just doing? You just running your mouth. I laugh because the instant thought that comes to my mind is you clearly don't know my background, you don't know my history, you don't know the sacrifices that I've made and how much money I would be making even now if I was willing to sell you out but I've never been that guy."
Smith certainly got very defensive there, but there is no way for us to verify what he said. We can take his word for it and the fact that he is so connected among NBA circles does indicate that he is well respected and a lot of players do gravitate toward him.
Ultimately, however, Smith is going to get some criticism for the nature of his job. Whatever he says on television will ruffle some feathers and the fact that he is fairly outspoken means that blowback is inevitable.