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

I can’t call myself a Knicks fan. After years of covering the team, growing up watching the Knicks and Nets, and falling in love with the game because of Kobe Bryant, I can’t say I’m a diehard Knicks fan. I want the Knicks and Nets to be good because it’s more fun to cover winning teams, but that’s about the extent of it at this stage in my life.

I won’t fault fans for being emotional. I live and die with the Jets every Sunday. I respect any fan’s right to overreact.

But anyone with two eyes and two brain cells can see right through Stephen A. Smith’s Knicks shtick. It’s performative to a fault. It’s beyond acting and even overacting. This isn’t Al Pacino giving us a campy version of Jimmy Hoffa in The Irishman, it’s Tommy Wiseau in The Room.

Every time the Knicks make a questionable move, Stephen A. dials up the dramatics. Don’t believe me? He was crying before he knew what the Knicks got back from the Thunder for the 11th pick. New York traded Ousmane Dieng for three future first-round picks. That’s a decent haul, but anyone who judged the move based on Smith’s reaction would think the Knicks just gave away a future superstar for table scraps.


The problem with this performative shtick is that it gives off the impression that Smith is the average Knicks fan. To be clear, there were plenty of upset Knicks fans on draft night, but Smith does not represent the majority of fans. He’s a caricature of a Knicks fan, but that’s because his job is reliant on being entertaining for television.

It’s a shtick that works because anyone outside of New York City wants Knicks fans to be like Stephen A. Smith. Whenever he starts playing up to the camera, the world runs wild with it. Bloggers use it as a way of poking fun at Knicks fans and it turns into one big meme. It’s the gift that keeps on giving for anyone who enjoys feeling a sense of schadenfreude at the Knicks’ expense.

Stephen A. Smith isn’t totally wrong, though. He came through with a measured take on First Take, which doesn’t happen very often. He’s upset with the Knicks and vowing to stay away from Madison Square Garden next season.

For what it’s worth, this is one of the best ways an average fan can respond to franchise futility. No, the Knicks won’t fall into financial ruin because Joe Schmo decides to stop going to games, but the average fan can pick and choose where he spends his hard-earned money. It’s better than goofy protests or trying to organize a boycott.

The other thing Stephen A. is right about is Leon Rose. Maybe he’s wrong about Rose’s offseason moves or vision for the future, but he’s not wrong about Rose being a coward with the media. In his two-plus years as head honcho of the Knicks, Rose has never once taken questions from the media. And no, state-sanctioned interviews with MSG don’t count.

A large portion of the fanbase won’t care that Rose doesn’t speak to the media, but players and coaches aren’t allowed to hide from the spotlight of accountability. Why should Rose? But don’t worry, Rose released a statement on the Knicks’ draft night that was almost certainly put together by a PR staffer.

 

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.