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Stephen A. Smith rants about the lack of rivalries between today's NBA superstars


Stephen A. Smith has a problem with a lot of today's players - superstars in particular. And it has nothing to do with them teaming up.

They've forgotten, from a fans perspective, what basketball is all about.

Stephen A. Smith, First Take

What Smith is alluding to is the lack of superstar rivalries in the NBA today. Not superteams - superstars. Basketball is a team game. The ball, as well as the credit, is shared among the individuals in a collective. But there have always been individuals who transcended that. And there are still those guys in today's NBA - perhaps more than ever. But they are not willing to compete against each other.

In the sport of basketball, at some point in time, it's me and you. Even though it's a team game, and we got guys around, it's me and you. And so many of today's players that want to throw that off, they want to shove that aside.

Stephen A. Smith, First Take

This is a perfect example of intangibles people use when praising Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. It's the same reason Stephen A. always appreciated the greatness of the two. They never backed down from a challenge. In fact, they were always in pursuit of one.

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Michael Jordan, one time at a press conference, I forgot who it was against. Somebody said something, and MJ said, 'Okay.' Then got up, walked down, turned around, and said, 'Who said that again?' So everybody knew, 'Oh damn, it's going to be something.'

Stephen A. Smith, First Take

Today's players aren't built that way. I'm not saying the NBA lacks competition. But it does lack individual rivalries, something today's superstars distance themselves from.

So many of today's players rob us of that because they don't want to engage. They don't want the media to make something out of it; they don't want the social media to make the same thing. It's basketball!

Stephen A. Smith, First Take

But it's a different kind of basketball. Superstars are still at the forefront, but it's not their matchups that are focal points of the NBA's product. The league has become about duos and trios, and 1-on-1 matchups aren't what sells tickets anymore. And why is that?

Players will tell you it's the media's fault for forcing players into artificial rivalries. The NBA media will tell you the opposite - players today are too friendly. I would side with the latter. And it seems so would Stephen A. Smith.

That's why he would love to see LeBron James and the Lakers go up against Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers in this year's NBA Playoffs. And really see those two in each other's grills for the entirety of the series. Not too hostile, but also not too friendly. That's what today's NBA is missing. Let's hope this is the year we get it back.

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