Narrator: Today is June 10, 2020. I flew in from Philadelphia last night, and I am visiting the ESPN Headquarters in Los Angeles, California with my friend Alvin, who’s been in a coma for over three years. ESPN moved their whole operation to Los Angeles after LeBron James left Cleveland to team up with Lonzo Ball (and LaVar Ball) in Los Angeles. The offices are buzzing with excitement over tonight’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the hometown Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers. Here’s the SportsCenter set. Linda Cohn and Stan Verrett are this morning’s anchors. Stan just read a statistic from ESPN Stats & Info that said when the Western Conference team plays Game 1 of the Finals at home on a Tuesday, they win the series 83% of the time. It’s not looking good for Philadelphia. Hey, there’s Stephen A. Smith walking onto the set of First Take. The show is about to start!
Molly : Good morning! Welcome to First Take on ESPN presented by Big Baller Brand. I’m your host Molly Qerim, here with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman. Guys, are you ready for the Finals?
Stephen A: (grins) Molly, I HAVE NEVER EVER been more ready for an NBA Finals in my entire life. LEBRAWN JAMES in the CITY OF ANGELS. LONZO BALL!!! And PAUL GEORGE!!! Max, you cannot POSSIBLY think Philadelphia can win this series.
Max: There are arguments to be had on both sides Stephen A., and we’ll make our predictions later. However, this matchup illustrates how much of an advantage the NBA franchise in Los Angeles has. Both of these teams were among the worst in the NBA just 5 years ago. The Sixers, with Sam Hinkie, and later Bryan Colangelo, in charge, made all of the right decisions to put themselves in position to win a championship. The Lakers, on the other hand, bungled their rebuilding process, only to be bailed out by the allure of Hollywood, which landed them Paul George and LeBron James.
Stephen A: Max, you’re not giving enough credit to Magic Johnson. MITCH KUPCHAK WAS A COMPLETE AND UTTAH IDIOT. 72 MILLION DOLLARS FOR MOZGOV…
Dick Vitale: (faintly, listening from another room) ARE YOU SEEERIOUS?!?!?
Stephen A: … A MAN WHO COULDN’T RUN FASTER THAN THE WHEELCHAIR HE SPENT SO MUCH TIME IN!!! (Hyperventilating) AND LUOL DENG, MY GOD!!! I can’t think about it anymore. Magic Johnson dug the Lakers out of a deep hole, Max, and you’ve GOT TO credit him for that.
Max: Yes, Stephen A., Magic Johnson brought the Lakers back to contention, but my point is that rebuilding is easier if you’re the Lakers.
Molly: Alright, we have to take a quick commercial break. We’ll be back with more Finals talk in a second, but stay tuned for later in the show: Will the Mayweather-Tebow fight ever happen?
Narrator: That was an intense start. Stephen A reminded me of Alvin when I told him how Sam Hinkie became general manager of the Seattle Supersonics. Sam Presti left the Oklahoma City Thunder after the Paul George-Russell Westbrook experiment failed. George went to Los Angeles, Westbrook went to Miami, and Presti went to New York. The Thunder hired Hinkie to replace him. His first move in his home state was trading Steven Adams to Presti’s Knicks for the 8th pick in the 2018 Draft (injured big man Mohamed Bamba) and a 2022 pick swap. Hinkie didn’t realize that a fragile small market like Oklahoma City couldn’t handle the Process, however, and the team was forced to move back to Seattle to stay in business.
Molly: Welcome back to First Take. Who is an under the radar player that you guys think might become an X-factor in the Finals? Stephen A?
Stephen A: The X factor in this series, AND IN EVERY SERIES, is LeBron James.
Molly: Well, what about someone who’s more under the ra-
Stephen A: LEBRON JAMES has been stuck on 3 rings for some time now. He might not even be in these Finals had Draymond Green not gone missing…
Narrator: In Game 4 of the conference finals between the Lakers and Warriors, referee Monty McCutchen called a reach-in foul on Draymond Green. Draymond, in disbelief, sprinted to the other side of the court with his hands on his head. He continued through the tunnel and out of the arena. Authorities finally caught up to him on the Golden Gate Bridge at halftime of Game 7, but it was too late for the Warriors.
Stephen A: If LeBron James, THE KING, cannot defeat a young, inexperienced Sixers team, any debate of LeBron versus Jordan should NEVER… be spoken of again.
Max: I think T.J. McConnell could be a key player in this series. 2 years ago, the Sixers traded him to the Lakers for a second round pick, which they later sold.
Narrator: Worst moment of my life.
Max: He has to take that as an insult. All of those years in Cleveland, LeBron needed a good backup point guard. Now, he has one, an angry one at that. Now that T.J. McConnell is a Los Angeles Laker, LeBron has everything he needs to win a championship.
Molly: Okay, I think it’s time to make our predictions. Max, who is going to win this series?
Max: I’m not going to allow myself to be influenced by the star power of the Lakers. The Lakers do not have Joel Embiid, who won his first MVP award this year. I think Embiid and Ben Simmons will dominate inside, and Markelle Fultz and Luka Doncic make up the best backcourt in the NBA. I have to pick the 76ers to bring a championship back to Philadelphia.
Stephen A: WHAAAAAT!!! WHAAAAT!!! MAX KELLERMAN DO NOT TELL ME YOU JUST PICKED AGAINST LEBRON JAMES?!?!? AND AGAINST LAVAR BALL, A MAN WHO HAS BEEN ON THIS SHOW MANY TIMES!!! THAT IS BLASPHEMOUS!!! BLASPHEMOUS!!! Right here, on this show, I am going with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James is too good to lose another NBA Finals. LaVar Ball sat right here on this set before the season and guaranteed a championship. The Larry O’Brien Trophy is returning to Los Angeles.
Molly: Well, this is why they play the games. Next, is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback?