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[Tvt News]Stephen A. Smith and the Lure of Losing

SPN’s Stephen A. Smith. Photo: ESPN

If you will forgive this Deadspin founder who spent many years making giddy sport of the man, I have to admit: I have sort of come around on ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. He’s a completely absurd character whose commentary is designed to be the precise opposite of enlightening, and that he has become the signature opinionator on everything for that network is a daily open admission that many of the once-grand journalistic ambitions of that network have been dropped entirely. (My friend and Deadspin successor Tommy Craggs once joked that Smith’s one talent was “the ability to be emphatic on command.”) If Stephen A. Smith is more powerful than ever, and he is, it’s definitely a sign that the early sports blogosphere lost the war.

All that said, I am not immune to the charms of this.

pic.twitter.com/rn0hDF0JdE

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) May 15, 2019

Leave Britney Alone voice before nearly breaking down and moaning, in a startling Stephen A. admission, “I don’t even know what else to say.” He ultimately sticks the landing: “Hopefully I’ll calm down before First Take tomorrow,” bringing the whole thing home to nail the promo this was all about in the first place. Friends: Two million people have watched this video. I give up. Stephen A. wins. I accept it. In a sports-media world of disingenuous hucksters, blatant liars, and Barstool, this sort of lunatic performance art has a certain dignity to it. Good for you, Stephen A. If someone has to reign, it might as well be you.

go Cardinals) — is bemoaning the fact that his beloved New York Knicks did not get the No. 1 overall seed in Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery, dropping to the No. 3 pick, which will thus deny the Knicks the opportunity to draft all-world talent Zion Williamson, who will now play for the New Orleans Pelicans (whose disgruntled superstar, Anthony Davis, the Knicks had considered trading the rights to draft Williamson for in the first place). In watching it, you would have thought that obtaining the No. 1 pick was a layup for the Knicks that they nonetheless contrived to choke. “I knew it,” Smith says, almost tearing up. “They get close, they tease us, then they never get it done!” He then yelps a few times and punches something soft, hopefully fake leather car upholstery. “Typical Knicks!”

Of course, this is not what happened last night. The banshee-like shrieks of Knicks fans in the wake of the draft lottery, it must be said, made no logical sense. The draft-lottery balls did not fall against the Knicks; they fell for them. As Nate Silver noted, the Knicks had a 60 percent chance of ending up with the No. 4 or No. 5 picks, which means they beat the odds to pick as high as they did. (They had only a 14 percent chance of landing Zion with the No. 1 pick.) The two teams with the exact same odds to receive the No. 1 seed as the Knicks did, the Cavaliers and the Suns, will actually pick behind the Knicks with Nos. 5 and 6, respectively. The Hawks had nearly the same odds and ended up all the way back at No. 8. This draft is generally considered to have three superstar-level talents: Williamson (a step above the other two), Murray State’s Ja Morant, and Duke’s RJ Barrett. The odds were against the Knicks’ having the opportunity to land any of them. And yet now they’ll get one. The Knicks were lucky. The Knicks won.

will.leitch@nymag.com.

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