Stephen A. Smith isn't happy with the current state of the NBA regarding players and how they interact with each other. The ESPN analyst isn't a fan of players being too friendly with each other, always smiling and joking around, which is totally different from what we used to see in the 90s and 2000s.
The 53-year-old believes the league needs to have some rivalries since that is what fans want to watch. It is good to see players getting along but that's reaching new levels and SAS doesn't like it. During a recent edition of ESPN's First Take, the analyst ranted about the current relationships in the league and what the fans actually want to see from superstars (2:25).
"They’ve forgotten, from a fans perspective, what basketball is all about. In the sport of basketball, at some point in time, it’s me and you. Even though it’s a team game, and we got guys around, it’s me and you. And so many of today’s players that want to throw that off, they want to shove that aside."
Smith remembered that two of the fiercest competitors in NBA history, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, never backed down for a challenge and they were ready to go at it against anybody to win and show they weren't afraid of anything.
"Michael Jordan, one time at a press conference, I forgot who it was against. Somebody said something, and MJ said, ‘Okay.’ Then got up, walked down, turned around, and said, ‘Who said that again?‘ So everybody knew, ‘Oh damn, it’s going to be something.’"
Stephen A. blamed social media and the media for that, saying that superstars are too afraid to engage in rivalries because things can get out of context, which will hurt their images.
"So many of today’s players rob us of that because they don’t want to engage. They don’t want the media to make something out of it; they don’t want the social media to make the same thing. It’s basketball!"
It's good to see that players get along so well but the league could be more interesting if we have more things to be interested in a game than just watching two big names playing. Back in the 80s, you have Magic and Bird, Jordan and the 'Bad Boys', then Jordan against the Knicks and that continued in the 2000s.
The most recent kind of rivalry we had was LeBron James vs. the Golden State Warriors and they just engaged in trash talk on the court, only to forget everything after games. Perhaps the league with its rules has affected that, too, but fans wouldn't mind having a big rivalry like in the old times.