Things got heated on a recent episode of ESPN’s “First Take” when two former NBA stars clashed over why certain players might be favored to win the league’s MVP award.
On Tuesday, guest analysts JJ Redick and Kendrick Perkins joined hosts Stephen A. Smith and Holly Qerim to discuss Nikola Jokic’s impending NBA MVP award. Jokic already won the 2021 and 2022 MVP honor, so winning again this year would make three in a row. Perkins, who spent 15 years in the league before retiring in 2018, suggested that many NBA MVP voters prefer white players over their black counterparts.
“When it comes down to guys winning MVP since 1990, it’s only three guys that won the MVP that wasn’t Top 10 in scoring,” Perkins stated on the show last Wednesday. “Do you know who those three guys were? Steve Nash, Jokic, and Dirk Nowitzki. Now, what do those guys have in common? I’ll let it sit there and marinate. You think about it.”
Nash, Jokic, and Nowitzki are all white males from foreign countries. On Tuesday, Perkins also added that “when it comes to MVP voting, 80 percent of the voters are white American. Twenty percent are others. I know that stat.”
Redick took issue with Perkins’ insinuation that voters for the NBA MVP award, who are largely sports writers and broadcasters, cast their votes based on skin color.
“Stephen A. [Smith], I mean no offense to you,” Redick began in rejoinder. “I mean no offense to ‘First Take’ because I think this show is extremely valuable. It is an honor to be on this desk every day. It really is.
“But what we’ve just witnessed is the problem with this show,” he continued, “where we create narratives that do not exist in reality. The implication, what you are implying, that the white voters that vote on NBA are racist, that they favor white people … That’s exactly what you implied, Kendrick Perkins.”
Redick’s comments prompted a lot of cross-talk with Perkins, who argued that he was merely stating “facts.”
Though Perkins initially stood his ground, he quickly backpedaled and extended an olive branch to Redick, who was a league journeyman from 2006 until 2021.
“JJ, I appreciate you brother,” Perkins said. “Real talk, I appreciate you for challenging me on this whole conversation. Because guess what? It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but it was something that needed to be had because for the simple fact is this: This is how a lot of former African-American players have been feeling for decades now. So yes, it was brought up and yes, we went at it, but it was a conversation that we had.
“Someone had to address the elephant in the room, and that was a conversation that needed to be had,” Perkins continued. “But I appreciate you, brother. I’m good, long as you good.”
Redick followed suit and promised Perkins that there were no hard feelings. “Perk, you know I respect your experience,” Redick added. “I respect every former player’s experience. I can’t speak on that.
“I understand what you’re saying. We’re always good,” Redick assured Perkins.
Molly Qerim then closed the segment by claiming she wished they could all gather in person for a group hug.
The NBA typically announces its MVP in June after the playoffs are over. With just a few weeks left in the regular season, Jokic will continue to vie for the coveted award against other frontrunners, including Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. Jokic currently averages a triple-double and 24 points per game. He and the rest of the Denver Nuggets have the best record in the Western Conference at 46-19. They are set to host the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
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