The loud and brash sports commentator Stephen A. Smith has become the face of ESPN after years of grinding on the ground as a beat reporter, before making the transition over to radio and television.
Smith has made a lot of enemies during his long-standing career in the media, including his most recent beef with Nets superstar Kevin Durant.
During his tenure as a sports columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, covering the Philadelphia 76ers, Smith had inked a not-so-flattering article about Hall of Fame combo guard and Philly legend Allen Iverson, which ended up causing a fissure in the two's relationship for years.
On an episode of The Old Man and the Three, Smith recalled how he and Iverson had built a relationship during AI's time in the NBA and Smith's time covering the Sixers. The colorful ESPN personality fawns over Iverson and admits he's like "a little brother" to him.
"It's hard to admit this as an objective observer, or journalist, or commentator, but I love Allen Iverson," Smith said. "He's like a little brother to me. And covering him, being an African-American man from the streets of New York, knowing his story and knowing everything he endured, we went through a lot together covering him. I don't believe I'm sitting here in this position today if it were not for Allen Iverson."
Smith then claims that the only man who matched how popular AI was during his heyday in the league was Michael Jordan.
"When he was a star in this league, the only person more popular than him one could easily argue was Michael Jordan. That's how popular Allen Iverson was. He didn't always do the right things, and sometimes that stuff was hard to write, and a whole bunch of stuff I didn't say, and I didn't write, but sometimes he left you no choice."
One of those "no choice" but to write stories put Iverson and Smith's relationship to the test.
“His last stint with the Philadelphia 76ers, we didn’t speak for two years because he was upset that I had written an article about him," Smith said to Reddick. "He was away from the team, you know, supposedly his kid was sick or whatever. But then they saw him partying. He didn’t know any of this but one of my editors said ‘I thought you said Allen Iverson was with his family.’ I said ‘he is, that’s what he told me."
Smith then claims that the editor showed him the video of Iverson at the party and stated that if Smith doesn't write the story, the department will. With this in mind, Smith said he felt like he had no other choice but to pen the piece.
Wanting to right the ship with Iverson, Smith recalled heading down to Atlanta where he confronted Iverson who told Smith that he wasn't upset about what was said in the article but was mad that his name was on the byline.
"I went down to Atlanta looking for him, and I had a few of my boys with me. I went down there looking for him and I found him, and we met up, and it wasn't any of that. He said, 'man, I don't care about the article. It's that it came from you.' And when he said that, I felt this small, because I got it, I didn't know. He has a job as a player, I have a job as a reporter, and that was it. I'm here thinking he had a problem with the story, he had no problem with the story. He said, 'I deal with that every day, it's the fact that your name was on the byline'. And I really didn't say much, but when I saw the hurt in his eyes, the story wasn't worth it to me."
The two ended up squashing their beef, with Iverson being remembered as a player who shook up the entire NBA, from his style off and on the court, to his other well-known feud with the late great former NBA commissioner David Stern.
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