Stephen A. Smith Ramps Up Verbal Beef With Bulls’ Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls

Getty Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls.

The war of words between Chicago Bulls star Lonzo Ball and ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith has taken another turn.

Displeased with Smith’s reporting that he was still dealing with discomfort in his surgically repaired knee when trying to “get up from a sitting position,” Ball called out the outspoken Smith, challenging the veracity of his sources.

Smith has since clapped back, even hinting at who his sources were.

“It ain’t fighting words or nothing like that. I’m just saying, ‘Sit your a** down,’” Smith said on “The Stephen A. Smith Show” on August 23. “Come on, bro. You don’t exactly have a strong case to argue with me on this. Do you want me to give the names of your doctors and the surgeries that you have had?”

Ball’s latest procedure, which has knocked him out of the 2023-24 season, is a rarity in the NBA, with successful returns even rarer.

Stephen A. Smith Notes Lonzo Ball’s Injury History

Smith declined to divulge that information but did list some numbers about Ball’s injury history, noting that he played just 35 games for the Bulls after signing a four-year, $80 million contract as part of the trade that brought him from the New Orleans Pelicans in 2021.

He also noted this is the third surgery Ball has had while on the Bulls.

“In six NBA Seasons, Lonzo Ball has missed 211 of a possible 472 games – which is 45% – due to injury. Not including load management,” Smith said. “Why are you making a video? … Sitting poolside on a bench, getting up on one knee; you think that shows that you’re healthy?”

Ball has been open about still having a long way to go in his recovery.

“Would you like me to tell where you had surgery, and exactly what date you had surgery on?” Smith said. “Would you like me to get the names of the doctors? I do have them. … I know the actual doctors that operated on you – actual locations. Of course, I wouldn’t do something like that to you, bro. I would never do something like that.”

Smith went on to say that information was “none” of his or anyone else’s “business.”

Stephen A. Smith’s Comments & HIPAA

Enacted in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) exists to protect “all individually identifiable health information, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

Individually identifiable health information” is information, including demographic data, that relates to:

  • the individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition,
  • the provision of health care to the individual, or
  • the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual

and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify the individual. Individually identifiable health information includes many common identifiers (e.g., name, address, birth date, Social Security Number).”

Smith, whose claims could fall under the first bullet point, suggested that it was someone from Ball’s circle who divulged the information.

“It’s not a crime to say that people have been concerned about your knees,” Smith continued. “You know I don’t make it up. If I said it, somebody close to you told me. Maybe they’re wrong. But that’s the concern about you. That’s the reality.”

It would also not be a crime if Smith got the information from a non-medical professional, Bulls staffer, or even a teammate, Southern Methodist University law professor Nathan Cortez said in a story by The Athletic’s Jon Machota in 2020. Cortez adds that, while HIPAA laws are “narrow,” they are not the only privacy laws in existence.

Smith repeatedly said he liked Ball and his father, just as Ball said about Smith in his video. But Smith also served up a reminder for anyone else who might want to question him.

“Someday y’all are going to learn,” Smith said. “You got to come at me, you got to be ready. Because you know at any given moment, even though I don’t always choose to do so, I love the power that I have to reach out and touch somebody anytime I want to.”

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