Stephen A. Smith pulls race card on LeBron James’ podcast with JJ Redick

Stephen A. Smith pulls race card on LeBron James’ podcast with JJ Redick

Ever since the end of the Los Angeles Lakers‘ season and the subsequent firing of coach Darvin Ham, there’s been rising tension about JJ Redick‘s convenient candidacy to replace him, after starting a podcast with LeBron James in March. Now, Stephen A. Smith has added a new, shocking element to the discussion, revealing racial backlash he is hearing about from around the NBA.

Black NBA coaches take issue with LeBron James

On Monday’s edition of ESPN First Take, the outspoken host revealed that Black NBA coaches have taken issue with LeBron James and his role in the Lakers coaching drama.

James and Redick’s podcast, Mind the Game, ran simultaneously with the end of the season and the beginning of the NBA Playoffs, during which Ham, who is Black, faced great scrutiny. After Los Angeles lost to the Denver Nuggets in the first round, Ham was fired.

Redick, who is White, has emerged as a leading candidate. His relationship with LeBron combined with his knowledge of the game, both relatively unknown before the podcast, were key factors in his candidacy. Smith stated that he doesn’t blame Redick for making the most of the amazing opportunity, but he does question LeBron’s decision-making.

A bad look for LeBron James

The criticism, from the Black coaches and from Stephen A. himself, had more to do with the racial optics of the situation. Did LeBron undermine a Black man and set up a White man to replace him? Whether that was his intention or not, argued Smith, that’s how it looks.

King James is one of the savviest players in league history when it comes to controlling his own narrative. From taking his talents to South Beach to his storybook return to Cleveland to his constant presence in his teams’ front office and coaching decisions, LeBron has always had his hand in spinning the story.

For once, it seems, he failed to consider how his actions would look.

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