NBA journeyman Stephen Jackson Sr. defended Kyrie Irving against ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith on Thursday.
After New York City changed its vaccination mandate to allow athletes and entertainers to play at city venues, Irving will be able to play in home games. Jackson did not approve of Smith’s reaction to the development.
Stephen A. Smith must eliminate criticism of Kyrie Irving
Stephen Jackson Sr. said:
“He may not be a hero to you, but he’s a hero to someone.”
Kyrie Irving has only played 20 games this season due to his decision not to be vaccinated. Due to New York’s COVID-19 measures, he was unable to play in the city, either at Barclays Center or the New York Knicks’ Madison Square Garden.
Originally, Brooklyn didn’t want a full-time player, but reversed that decision in December. Irving returned to play in January, but only in games that weren’t in New York or Toronto.
Over his 20 games, Irving averaged 28.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. Stats like these are going to be a big boost in the final nine games. If the restriction had not been lifted, he could only have played in two of them.
What angered Jackson about Irving’s return was Smith’s tone.
“I’m very, very happy that Kyrie Irving is on the basketball court. I’m thrilled, mind you, because his absence would have cost the Brooklyn Nets a championship, I strongly believe in that. … The warrant was wrong.
So Smith is “very happy” with Irving’s return but feels the need to keep saying that Kyrie’s actions didn’t make him a hero?
“He put himself above the team, which is totally his right. … But at the end of the day, that doesn’t make him a fucking hero, because he isn’t. He was willing to leave the Brooklyn Nets on hold if necessary, willing to jeopardize their championship hopes if necessary, due to his isolated individual choice, to the detriment of his entire organization.
“And if that’s anyone’s definition of a hero, I’ll just say it’s really not mine.”
After almost an entire season where Smith begged Irving to play, when he’s finally able to play full time, Smith still managed to find something to unhappy him with.
Jackson’s point is that Irving is still someone else’s hero. Smith had no reason to say that Irving wasn’t a hero, because there was never a story for it. Not once has Irving stated, or even hinted, at him thinking his actions were heroic.
For Smith, defining them like this invokes its own narrative around Irving. This is the first time the media has mentioned Irving in any way as a “hero.”
Irving being able to play at home should be seen as a positive. The man hasn’t been able to play in his arena for the entire season. Celebrating his return should be the narrative.
Smith has been unhappy with Irving’s decision all year and repeatedly stated that Brooklyn would be knocked out in the first round due to Irving’s position. Now that Irving is back ahead of the playoffs, the Nets have a much better chance.