Stephen A. Smith: ‘I think Kyrie Irving should retire’

Nick Friar
·5 min read

Stephen A. Smith is one of the first to say the Brooklyn Nets are a forced to be reckoned with. At the same time, the ESPN host has not shied away from criticizing the Nets in the infancy of this season. But his rant about Kyrie Irving’s recent behavior was a little different — even from the one where Smith ripped Irving for not talking to the media.

“He’s not worth [the drama] at all. Matter of fact, let me say this straight up and down: I think Kyrie Irving should retire,” Smith said on ESPN’s First Take Wednesday. “I think he should announce his retirement today. Clearly, you don’t want to play basketball bad enough. Now you might still want to get the $33.4 million. Obviously, devoid of some of the docked pay you’ll receive because you haven’t complied with safety protocol measures and as a result, the league is going to determine when you come back instead of yourself, for taking personal leave and obviously forfeiting game checks or whatever the case may be. But still, in all, at the end of the day, you know what you’re still going to get in excess of $20 million, at the very least, even though you’re on the books for $33.4 million this year.

“Kyrie Irving has not prioritized basketball, but I’m not saying he doesn’t want to play all together. I’m saying he hasn’t prioritized it, and how fair was that to Brooklyn Nets? How fair is that to Sean Marks? How fair is that to Steve Nash — a coach that he endorsed bringing on board, a coach that he wanted, a coach that he fully supported? How fair is that to his brotha, Kevin Durant? We can sit up there and say what we want about Kevin Durant [being temperamental and all that stuff: this brotha is a superstar and answers the call the way superstars are supposed to answer the call. Whenever he can play, he does play. That’s who Kevin Durant is, he loves playing the game of basketball. He can play for a lot of money because he’s so great he commands it or he”d play for free, but he’ll play anywhere — because that’s who he is.

“Kyrie Irving, clearly, is not interested in doing that, and that’s the problem. So guess what? Go ahead and retire. Go ahead and retire until you know that you’re committed to play it. And the reason why I seemed a bit perturbed and a bit disgusted by all of this is because Kyrie Irving — this is what’s going on right now. There’s a lot of stuff that’s been happening in this world over the last few months as we all know: social justice issues and beyond, we get that. Kyrie Irving’s heart is in the right place. He wants to do a lot of things for the community, he wants to do things to uplift the community, to address some of the concerns, the things that are ravaged our communities for many, many years. He wants to do all of that. In that regard, his heart is in the right place. He’s philanthropic, he’s very charitable with his time, with his donations and things of that nature. … Here’s the problem that I have. He acts like he can’t chew gum and walk at the same time.

Smith kept going, bringing the attention back to Irving’s issues with the Disney bubble.

“This dude signed [for] four years, $141 million. Last year, he played 20 games,” Smith said. “He made a whole bunch of noise and hoopla about how to players shouldn’t participate in the bubble during the postseason — a bubble, by the way, that he wasn’t gonna be able to participate in because he had right shoulder surgery. But still, he was making noise. And then went against Chris Paul and the Players Association — Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala, and all of those boys — without even letting them know or giving them a heads up as to what he was going to do. He just bucked the whole system and decided that he wanted to do things his way.

“Then he comes into this season, now that KD is healthy, he still doesn’t have his legs together or whatever — KD is still getting into game shape, he’s still getting his game back and average at 27, 28 [points] again. This is who this dude is. Surreal. Big time. Elite. Future Hall of Famer. Two-time champion. Two-time NBA Finals MVP. And we all know that the Brooklyn Nets would not have wanted Kyrie Irving had not been for Kevin Durant. So if you Kevin Durant, obviously you had to vouch for this brotha, you had to insist on this brother being there with you, you had to want him the way Kawhi Leonard wanted Paul George. That’s what you did with Kyrie Irving, and Kyrie Irving repays you and repays the Nets organization by skipping games for a personal reason.”

After talking about the video that’s led to the latest stretch of drama and again saying Irving “should retire [and] forfeit every penny that you make and go do what you wanna do in regards to these issues that are clearly most important to you, until you are ready to play,” Smith brought up one of Irving’s idols.

“If you know anything about Kyrie Irving, one of the people he loved — and I hate to bring this up but it’s unavoidable. One of the people he loved so dearly, was the late, great Kobe Bryant,” Smith said. “Kyrie loved this man, and he loved Kyrie. This is a person that you respect and wanted to emulate. If you knew anything about Kobe Bryant, Kobe Bryant had a multitude of issues. He was always doing something. Missing games, when healthy was not one of them — no matter what Kobe was doing. No matter what — even if he wasn’t necessarily 100%. He didn’t miss games. This is ridiculous. And you know what, he just needs to retire. He just needs to retire.”

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Brooklyn
-417--
Cleveland
+320--