stephen a. smith
Tori Lynn Schneider | Tallahassee Democrat/USA TODAY NETWORK

The whole Nets circus is so fascinating to watch. Locally, no one really cares. But nationally, it’s a big deal. And Ben Simmons‘ aversion to playing basketball has brought out the absolute best in Stephen A. Smith.

“Nobody is worse than Ben Simmons,” Smith said Monday on ESPN First Take. “Ben Simmons might also be the weakest, most pathetic excuse for a professional athlete we have ever seen in not just American history, but the history of sports.”

Read that quote again. Study it. Reflect on it. Just amazing. Imagine Stephen A. in a library, working his way through leatherbound books, pouring over the entire recorded history of sport. He thumbs through the chapter on the Black Sox. He accidentally thinks that Steve Martin sketch on SNL about the NFL player with a gun on the field was an actual documentary. And when he is done, he takes a deep breath and still believes it’s Simmons.

The best part: Smith already hammered Simmons for skipping out on Monday’s Game 4 (the Nets are down 3-0 to the Celtics) on Sunday. So he got even angrier overnight!

“I feel bad for anyone who was his teammate,” Smith said Sunday. “He quit on LSU, he quit on the Philadelphia 76ers and now he ain’t showing up for the Brooklyn Nets. We can point to all the excuses, all the rationale that we want to. I do recall despite him not playing, he still filed a grievance to collect $20 million he has not earned.

“This is one of the most pathetic situations that I’ve ever seen in my life. He ain’t going to war, he ain’t going in the octagon, he’s not going into a boxing ring. It’s pulling teeth to get this man to play basketball. It’s pathetic, it’s sad.”

Also: The Simmons quote may have only been the second-most ridiculous thing Smith said Monday. It’s not every day you hear someone go geopolitical while ripping an NBA player.

“When Russia bombed Ukraine, I thought Kyrie Irving wasn’t going to show up to work,” Smith said. “I literally sat there like, ‘Is this man going to skip work?’ Because no one does it better than him. Eleven seasons in the NBA, Kyrie Irving has played 60-plus games four times.”


James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.