ESPN published their NBA top 25 under 25 list, and in their top five, the network’s insiders put Luka Dončić, Zion Williamson, LaMelo Ball, Donovan Mitchell, and Jayson Tatum in that order.
In a segment on First Take, Stephen A. Smith called out ESPN for the list for including Ball in the top five and ahead of established players such as Devin Booker, Ben Simmons, Mitchell, and Tatum. Furthermore, Smith stated that having a list like this hurts the network’s reputation.
“I love LaMelo Ball, but it’s stuff like this that diminishes the credibility of ESPN,” Smith said.
“ESPN needs to drug test anyone who had something to do with this. It makes no sense. LaMelo Ball before Devin Booker, really? LaMelo Ball before Donovan Mitchell, really? LaMelo Ball before Jayson Tatum, really? I mean, what the hell is going on? I believe that ESPN should call security right now and go to whoever put this list together – line them up and test every one of them.”
Ball has played in 41 games while averaging 15.9 points and 6.1 assists per game. There’s no denying that the 19-year-old is having a spectacular rookie season, but to have Ball ahead of players who have established themselves over multiple seasons might be a stretch for people such as Smith.