On Saturday night, sports commentator Stephen A. Smith hit hard with his opinion, but this time he may have taken things too far.
The First Take host poked fun at Knicks president Phil Jackson‘s decision to sign Lamar Odom back in 2014. “His very first move as the executive was to sign Lamar Odom… who was on crack!,” said Smith, who repeatedly brought up Odom’s history of drug use during the show.
Following Smith’s rant, Lamar tweeted a stated written by his lawyer Saam Zangeneh, slamming Smith for sending the wrong message about the seriousness of addiction. “Let’s put aside the fact that Lamar passed all the required physicals and medical tests necessary to play in the league,” the statement says. “Let us look at what this statement does, not only to Lamar, but to any and all professional athletes that are struggling with addiction.”
“Mr. Smith chose to jokingly disparage Lamar for having a disease. Mr. Smith chose to shout out the fact that Lamar was sick, and to use his disease as the butt of a joke. To say that his conduct was outrageous and unacceptable does not scratch the surface. Think about the others that are battling addiction. Those that have not had the strength or opportunity to share their struggle like Lamar. Imagine the effect this grotesque statement would have on any young athlete who is privately fighting this disease. To become the punch line of a vulgar joke.”
It didn’t take long for Smith to apologize to Odom…in his own very unique way. In a statement through ESPN, he writes
“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 New York Knick’s President Phil Jackson,” Smith explains.
“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,” he continued. “Lamar Odom is simply one of the nicest athletes any of us have encountered, and has always been a gentleman 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. And Why!”
Lamar Odom has been open about his struggles with drug abuse, admitting that it was a large part of the reason his marriage to Khloe Kardashian fell apart. In 2015, the former Lakers player was hospitalized after overdosing at a Las Vegas brothel, where he narrowly escaped death.