Stephen A. Smith falls for fake Nets report

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Got him!

Got him!
Image: Getty Images

Ballsack Sports emerged in late 2021 as a purveyor of satirical headlines and semi-professional graphics that were fleshed out by unsourced quotes.

Their juvenile Twitter name and logo (if you look hard enough) gave the impression that it was obviously satire. Clearly, the signals not to take it seriously didn’t register with everyone in the same way. At the end of a segment on Monday’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith referenced a Ballsack fake report from February alluding to Kyrie Irving calling James Harden “washed up” during scrimmages, saying that was the culprit behind their falling out in Brooklyn.

Stephen A’s sincere delivery and Molly Qerim replying, “wow” are what really make this facepalm moment pop.

Listen, it’s not my place to get high and mighty about journalism standards, especially when you’re speaking extemporaneously on live television, but we’ve got to delve into this one.

These fake memes psychologically worm their way into our psyche by sounding authentic and saying things we’d like to believe. Deep down, Stephen A. might want to believe that Brooklyn Nets practices play out like a juicy Love & Hip Hop breakup storyline, but in reality, Harden and Kyrie are way too passive-aggressive for that. And yet, this is a parable for our modern media environment.

Ballsack’s sham quotes disguised in tweet form have slipped through the cracks from time to time. An ESPN anchor believed a text from LeBron James was the impetus for Tom Brady’s decision to unretire. Ballsack Sports getting media members has grown so pervasive that the account broke character last month, released an explainer breaking down how to look for misinformation and pinned it to the top of their Twitter page.

While we’re chucking at Stephen A., most of the eyeballs reading this have probably run with a stat, anecdote, or satirical quote that was spread through their social media pages. About three years ago, my stepdad was ecstatic to share the news that Ford, the go-to truck for millions of rural and conservative America, was making Colin Kaepernick its next celebrity endorser. There was no story or press release to read, just a brief Facebook graphic . It wasn’t worth my energy to debunk a harmless faux news meme, but for months, I would smirk when he would casually reference Kaepernick’s Ford deal.

It’s why sourcing is vital. That can be a lot to ask for the layman. The most ridiculous aspect of Ballsack ensnaring Stephen A. is that the meme isn’t even new. Nor is it the first time an NBA analyst discussed Kyrie dumping on Harden. Just last month, Kendrick Perkins alluded to Kyrie and Harden’s bitter one-on-one practice encounters.

None of it is true. Yet, this one seems to have sprouted wings, taken off, and flown into quite a few ESPN personalities’ ears. A graphic and a quote in block letters is all it takes to make anyone believe a tall tale these days. During a January radio interview, Philadelphia 76ers general manager Daryl Morey jokingly referencing a fugazi Ballsack Sports trade rumor thrust Ballsack into prominence.

Getting Ballsacked is the media equivalent of getting juked out of your shoes. As more and more media members begin using Twitter as an information resource, these occurrences are bound to spike.

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