Stephen A. Smith, ESPN’s outspoken host of First Take and a former columnist at the Inquirer, isn’t one to usually back away from his opinions.
But on Saturday, the boisterous sports talker clarified the comments he made in a particularly nasty rant against Knicks president Phil Jackson, where Smith loudly (and laughably) exclaimed that former NBA star Lamar Odom “was on crack.”
“His very first move as the executive was to sign Lamar Odom… who was on crack!” Smith said, repeating the line several times to his somewhat bewildered co-host Max Kellerman.
IM DYING LMAOOOOO STEPHEN A AIN'T HOLDING BACK pic.twitter.com/KxvnQjVLD9
— ela (@dubsdynasty) June 22, 2017
Following the rant, Saam Zangeneh, Odom’s lawyer, sent a letter to ESPN slamming Smith’s decision to mock the former basketball star’s struggle with addiction.
“To say that his conduct was outrageous and unacceptable does not scratch the surface,” Zangeneh wrote. “We hope those at ESPN will actively voice their disdain for Mr. Smith’s inappropriate statement and take the proper action to support those that are fighting this disease.
— LAMAR ODOM (@RealLamarOdom) June 23, 2017
In addition to asking the network to deal with Smith’s comments, Odom’s lawyer pointed out the importance of viewing addiction as a disease rather than a character flaw or something to be mocked.
“Mr. Smith chose to shout out the fact that Lamar was sick, and to use his disease as the butt of a joke,” Zangeneh wrote. “Think about the others that are battling addiction. Those that have not had the strength or opportunity to share their struggle like Lamar.”
In a statement written by Smith and released by ESPN, the sports talker didn’t exactly apologize, but did attempt to clarify that his comments were directed at Jackson, and were not an attempt to put any more focus on Odom’s public struggles.
Because of my personal affection for Lamar Odom — and only for that reason — I want to return to my comments about something I’ve repeated quite often over the last few days: the flagrant ineptitude that I feel has been on continual display by Knick’s President Phil Jackson.
My comments were NOT to put any more focus on Lamar Odom’s much publicized drug use and addiction. He was not the target of my ire.
The sole focus of my comments were directed at the unmitigated disaster that Phil Jackson has created since he’s arrived in New York. It my opinion, he simply couldn’t leave soon enough.
Lamar Odom is simply one of the nicest athletes any of us have encountered, and has always been a gentlemen to everyone in NBA circles — including me — which is something I’ve repeated throughout the years.
That’s why it’s worth repeating: Lamar Odom was not the focus of my ire. My comments were entirely, totally, meant for Phil Jackson. Anyone who loves the NY Knicks, who’ve witnessed what has been transpiring over the last three years, know exactly who I was directing my comments to.
Odom’s struggles with addiction problems have been highly publicized since his 14-year career ended in 2013, in part due to his past relationship with reality TV star Khloe Kardashian. After a near-fatal overdose at a legal brothel in Nevada in October 2015, Odom checked into rehab to “focus on himself,” according to a statement at the time.