In March, ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins hinted that Nikola Jokic was the favorite to be named NBA MVP because he is white. Joel Embiid ultimately won the award.
Perkins’ co-host, JJ Redick, shut down Perkins’ idea pretty quickly, but things turned awkward just as quickly.
When Redick challenged Perkins, Perkins recanted his opinion and a cool head prevailed.
Stephen A. Smith, the lead host of «First Take,» admitted there was a lot of awkwardness between the personalities.
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Smith said the two went «too far» in the argument.
“What I didn’t know was the anger, at least it seemed like anger to me, that JJ Redick was feeling over the issue. When he walked in, for one thing, I understood how or why he felt that way. because of what Perk had said. On the other hand, he was telling JJ, ‘This is your buddy on the show. If you feel that way, did you have to come to him like that?’ Because he got uncomfortable,” Smith said on the Bill Simmons podcast.
«JJ and Kendrick made it seem like it was about them. And that’s when I knew it was bad, and I went in,» continued Smith. «But it was awkward.»
Smith also said that Perkins was just trying to make a point, but tried too hard to do so. Perkins even falsely claimed that NBA MVP voters were predominantly white, forcing ESPN to issue an apology.
«Everybody that I’ve brought on the show, this is what I demand of them. Be your true authentic self,» Smith said. «Don’t come in here without some fake s**t. Don’t make me or our audience look at you and think you’re faking something or saying something just for effect.
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«You need to feel it. This is where it gets tricky though. What happens is sometimes, in the heat of a debate, you’re saying something, and then you surprise yourself. And you’re like, ‘Oh shit, what I just said?»
«Stephen A. (Smith), I don’t want to offend you. And I don’t want to offend ‘First Take’ because I think this show is extremely valuable,» Redick said at the time. «It’s an honor to be at this desk every day. It really is. But what we’ve just witnessed is the problem with this show. Where we create narratives that don’t exist in reality. The implication you’re hinting at: that White voters who vote for the NBA (awards) are racist, pro-white. You just said that.»
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Perkins responded that he «simply stated the facts» but denied doing so about race.
Jokic and his Denver Nuggets won the NBA Finals, the first in franchise history.