ESPN’s “First Take” is said to be unscripted, but sometimes you can’t help but wonder if the show is explicitly designed not to spark genuine sports debate but to get a rise out of social media when it is taken at face value.
Case in point, Max Kellerman’s ridiculous assertion that Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors is a better clutch player in the playoffs than was five-time NBA champion and surefire Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant.
Stephen A. Smith, as he does, disputed the point at the top of his lungs.
“There has been no evidence — none! — whatsoever! — to compare him to Kobe in terms of being a clutch player!” he said.
Guest Jay Williams appeared to agree with Smith, but it’s hard to tell because he could hardly get a word in.
While Smith and Kellerman continued to shout and talk over each other, Williams started checking his phone.
Eventually, he had had enough.
“Stephen A.,” Williams interrupted. “Don’t. I’m not going to do this. … I have to go.”
He then got up and walked off the set.
“We can’t help you. We can’t help you. … We’re just seeing Kawhi carry something for the first time,” Smith said, and the yelling went on and on.
ESPN seems to be falling victim to a problem familiar to any action movie franchise, where serial escalation means each new installment must be bigger, more extreme, and more out-there than the one that came before it in order to keep audiences interested.
“First Take” has become a show where if the producers decided that Smith was going to argue that the sky is blue, Kellerman would cite a bunch of out-of-context statistics to show that the sky is orange, complete with photos taken at sunset during a California wildfire but presented as if they were high noon on a clear day.
And sure enough, some on social media suspected the discussion wasn’t honest.
— Amarjit Singh Malhi (@amarjit_malhi) May 7, 2019
I’m starting to think max is just saying things for shock value to boost rating. Smh 🤦🏾♂️
— Keon Young (@callmefreez) May 7, 2019
Great PR stunt max, not falling for it 😂
— #Lakeshow (@DEntrepreneur24) May 7, 2019
Their positions are scripted a lot in order to promote debate
— Larry Fisherman 👼🏻👼🏻 (@BtBiggs16) May 7, 2019
Still, it got people worked up.
Max Kellerman is a clown for this take..absolute stupidity..should never be allowed to talk basketball again..clutchness isn’t just the final possession or the final minute of the game..basically thinks Kawhi is more clutch after one game😂
— Angel Escobar (@aesco_runs_xc) May 7, 2019
•Max Kellerman: “Kawhi Leonard is better than Kobe”
•Everyone else pic.twitter.com/MxPU3lecNp
— Dylan (@DylansRawTake) May 7, 2019
The look on jay wills and Stephen a faces when Max said kawhi was better than Kobe under pressure priceless stick to Boxing analyzing 💯😵
— Lawrence Philly James (@ljtrain72) May 7, 2019
So Max Kellerman looked dumb, Stephen A. Smith gave the internet some new meme material and ESPN got a bunch of attention on social media.
And sure as the sun rises in the east, someone will say something head-splittingly absurd on “First Take” tomorrow and the cycle will begin anew.
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