When guys like Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon turned celebrity

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I was greeted by a story this morning that made me want to vomit.

Wait.

Wait.

OK. I just vomited.

There is a new book that came out three days ago. It’s a biography of Allen Iverson, written by a respected Washington Post reporter named Kent Babb. The title: Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson. According to Babb, Iverson’s infamous-turned-famous-turned awesome “Practice! We’re talkin’ about practice!” rant was fueled by alcohol, not merely anger. Apparently Iverson allegedly went out drinking before the diatribe, blah, blah, blah. Good stuff, if not overly shocking.

Anyhow, earlier today Stephen A. Smith—knower of all, reporter of none, carnival barker to the world—thrashed Babb’s work (which, ahem, he apparently hasn’t read), calling the story a “flat-out lie” on ESPN. “I’ve known Allen Iverson for 19 years,” he said. “Allen Iverson and I speak every week. We spoke this morning for 45 minutes. I might know a thing or two about basketball. I might know a thing or two about a lot of things. I know a hell of a lot more about Allen Iverson. I challenge any journalist to tell you they know him better than I do … Allen Iverson and I spoke for 45 minutes this morning.”

Smith insisted that Iverson was not drunk at the press conference because Iverson told him he wasn’t drunk at the press conference. So he wasn’t drunk. Because he wasn’t, dammit! And if you don’t believe that, well, f*ck off. I’m Stephen A. Smith—and don’t forget the A., because I hate when people do that.

He continued: “The reason I’m speaking out about this is because it’s an exercise in cruelty. Allen Iverson is retired. Allen Iverson is not playing any more and you are going to literally sit there and talk about something you believe happened over 12 years ago? Let me tell you something right now. Allen Iverson, I know Allen Iverson. Listen, he’ll tell you, if anybody knows if and when he is drunk, it is me. You understand. I can tell you for a fact that man wasn’t drunk.”

OK. Where to begin?

First, to Stephen Smith, go f*ck yourself. You used to be a journalist. You used to be a reporter. Then, when the money and the bright lights arrived, you stopped—and turned hype man. Which is fine. Truly, I have no problem with this. ESPN has blessed you with a comfortable life, one where you do little work (and scream incoherently) for great reward. Mazel tov.

But do not bash people who do actual reporting; who spend years digging into a subject and learning and reporting and uncovering. Guys like Stephen Smith are an all-too-common phenomenon—someone comes along and writes about a subject that you (Stephen Smith) feel belongs to you. And it pisses you off. Who the hell is Kent Babb to write about Allen Iverson? That’s my guy!

Stephen Smith doesn’t know whether Iverson was drunk or not drunk. He’s guessing, assuming, believing, protecting. But he can’t possibly know, unless he was either at the bar or attending church with Iverson before the presser. It’s nonsense.

For the record, I’m particularly flabbergasted by this one because, four years ago, one of Stephen A. Smith’s buddies pulled this nonsense on me. Right before the release of Sweetness, my Walter Payton biography, Michael Wilbon wrote a column slamming the book and my intentions—before even reading it and having never talked with me. Turns out Wilbon is a Chicago guy who, like Stephen Smith, used to believe in reporting and digging before he got swayed by big bucks and red-light fever. He, too, felt protective of the athlete, and lashed out in his defense. Ignorantly, naively, pathetically, unapologetically.

The problem, unfortunately, isn’t the criticism. Nope, it’s the spread of this idea that biography is unnecessary; that historical figures (be they political, social, athletic, whatever) should not be examined and probed under an unbiased light, for fear that we learn they are, beneath the glitter, merely human.

Long ago, guys like Stephen Smith and Michael Wilbon did the probing, and did it well.

Then they sold out.

And here we are.

42 thoughts on “When guys like Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon turned celebrity”

  1. Well said Jeff. It’s hard to do unbiased reporting when you are busy trying to get “inside tips” out of all of the athletes, staff, etc. This “insider info” almost always turn out to be random speculation. Smith is the worst with this.

  2. I’ll make two assumptions. One, the author of the book, Mr. Babb, wrote that Mr. Iverson was drunk because he had multiple, credible sources that said he was. Two, Mr. Smith says it’s a lie because, well, because. I’ll go with Mr. Babb.

    1. What the f is a credible source? When have sources ever been credible. Get your head out of your ass nimrod

    2. No source is credible on a topic as trivlal as this one 12 years later. AI does not seem drunk in his rant, the rant is warranted.

  3. but Steven A’s has a lead-pipe source and talks to the “brothas on the streets of Philly”! how can he be wrong!?

  4. In fairness, there is a lot that is wrong with sports these days. ESPN is hardly the only problem. It may very well be the biggest one, and it may be that many of the others are a direct result of its existence, but still, it is not the only one. And I know this because I spoke to ESPN on the phone for 45 minutes this morning.

  5. the “he hasn’t played for years, leave him alone!” argument is so dumb, what’s the cutoff on that?
    1 year after retirement?
    5 years?
    10?
    or does everyone immediately become off limits the minute they retire?

  6. People always talking bout Stephen a smith . I think he knows what he be talking about . He always in my city , ( Philadelphia) and we love him ,

    1. Hahaha no way. Everybody here hates Stephen a smith. He’s a loud mouth clown that just wants everyone to know that every athlete “is a dear friend of mine” like anyone cares about it.

      1. He’s no different from carton , he’s a loud mouth but nobody talks about him , and I love the boomer&carton show ! Stop hating .

  7. Jeff Pearlman, here’s to you. Boy you are bitter and want to be famous so bad. It’s actually funny. These guys have he money, fame and voice. Jealousy is a woman’s emotion.

      1. You know. Women should always be given a pass for being in their emotions. Men however, do fucking not. Plain and simple. Anything else? You got questions I got answers.

  8. Jeff, you are a HATER!!!!! Sound very bitter too! Stephen A worked hard and got blessed to be in the position he’s in! Hopefully one day you will too!? Doubt it unless you do some type of science project and Bruce, excuse me Caitlyn Jenner yourself! Smdhau…

    1. So you call him racist then call him a racist name “banana” your a hypocrite he even stuck up for Riley cooper your just a dumb ass as soon as redneck racist like you hurry up and die the world will be a better place

      1. Who eats bananas? Monkeys and apes. What do they the throw at black players in Europe. Bananas.

        I think Stephen A. Smith is an idiot. But he’s paid to be. Looks like you’re an idiot for free.

      2. This USA not Europe you jackass. If I wanted to be racist I woulda just called him N word. lol. He’s a banana as in he’s a scrub aka nobody. Shouldn’t be on tv. All he does is blow everything out of porportion n accuse ppl of being racist. Just like you. Go fly a kite. You don’t know me. B*tch!

      3. Typical racist. Good luck loser. Bet your life totally sucks. Gf or wife probably getting undercover huge black dick as we speak lol.

  9. It’s odd how you talk about unbiased examination when you make it extremely clear you don’t like Stephen A. This entire article is biased, but I guess we’re supposed to ignore that…

  10. Romelle Slaughter

    So…you think you know more about journalism than Jeff and Babb does? You and I wouldn’t know a damn thing about journalism if they gave us a pad and a pen and told us “cover a story.”

    Have you met Kent Babb? Have you read the book? You’re just as dumb as I am: you think you know, but you don’t know anything.

    Respected reporter? I’ll take Babb over SAS…in a heartbeat.

  11. Every time it’s all ways a white men writing about a black man trying to bring them down am sure it’s some white bro u can dig up dirt on and sell your books

  12. disqus_OgiM7r3lYa

    Terrible article. Who’s word do you take the one from the person who knows the actual player or the one from the “credible sources” Stephen A. had every right to say what he said and defend him if he knows the man wouldn’t lie to him about it.

  13. I am not a Smith fan. If he decided to take up Surfing and moved to an isolated beach I wouldn’t miss him.
    Babb on the other hand wasn’t going by any kind of factual knowledge only the assumptions made by Brown that kinda sorta figured Iverson was probably drinking since he was after all a drinker.
    Consider; AI had been in a tiff with coach Brown. He went to do the interview and Brown did the thumb to the mouth drinking sign. GM Billy King also thought maybe AI had been drinking.
    So Babb came to the conclusion AI was drinking.
    Both Brown and King had been discussing trading AI. Any possibility their minds were somewhat tainted by what they saw as a flaw in AI, who did drink?
    Iverson’s account on this makes sense. He was nearly traded. He had been under quite a bit of stress. A close friend had died, whether 6 months is enough time to get over that, or not, I don’t know.
    Instead of discussing anything important he is asked about “practice”. Seriously, practice?
    They had just been eliminated from the playoffs, the coach had just said anyone could be traded and he is asked about practice?
    Ya he went off, was drinking a factor, who knows. Nobody Babb talked with was with AI when he was supposedly drinking. Nobody tested him for alcohol. What you have is two guys that were thinking of dumping him ASSuming AI was drinking.
    In all of your reporting did you ever write about someone living without at least attempting to talk with him? Did Babb talk with Iverson?
    National Enquirer probably does a better job of investigating than Babb did.

  14. This story is BS. Jeff you sound like a hater, bigot and a KKK member. You basically hate two successful black men! This BS wasn’t about Iverson, it was about spewing your hate for two black men….PERIOD. Have a blessed day sir! HeHeHe

      1. FYI…I don’t need to consult with no one, I am a racism guru lol! Seriously though all criticism of blacks by someone white isn’t always racist, ‘ve agreed with whites criticism of blacks before. But in this case my intellect tells me Jeff is a bitter man that’s jealous of two black men that has a voice on TV to speak to millions of people while he’s writing lame articles like this. But of course all the Stephen A. Smith haters love BS like this. And remember I didn’t call him a racist, I don’t know the man. I said he sounds like a racist!

  15. The
    irony? This blog post is written by a guy who is only known for tearing
    down others (work). Pearlman simply loves to hate baseball and his
    ‘fame’ is only attributable to making Rocker and others look bad

  16. First It sound to me like your jealous of them. Second if you knew someone personally and someone tries to bash their name and reputation you would defend them to. Third don’t get mad give them respect they put in time and effort in their job and payed their dues that’s why they are where they are.

  17. I am not a fan of Stephen A. Smith and he recently made a comment about the blocking call on LBJ made against KD, and I wondered how often SAS was wrong so I did a search. One of the criticisms of SAS was by you, and I agree with you on most counts, even your criticism of Michael Wilbon–I stopped watching PTI years ago because of him. But I must say, you appear to be becoming what you accuse SAS of becoming–a barker! Make your point and stop barking.

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