What broadcasting career could possibly survive three annual/consecutive N-bombs uttered on live television?  It would appear ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith possesses teflon-like qualities, though the New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman likens it to, “someone high up at ESPN must have deposited a lot of leeway in the National Bank of Mess-Up. They’ve given Smith a max credit line on his MasterScrewup Card, too.”

On Wednesday’s edition of “First Take,” Smith and his co-mouth, Skip Bayless, were debating where Kevin Durant falls in the pecking order of NBA players. Is he right behind LeBron James? At one point, Smith got riled up and said: “That’s the way it goes. That’s all! N—-, please. Please.”

Smith rolled out the same defense he did the first two times his mouth out-ran his brain. He’s denying he used the N-word. ESPN bought his “take” and looked further into the matter. “We have concluded no inappropriate language was used after closely reviewing the segment several times, including physical aspects of speech, and speaking to Stephen A., who maintains he jumbled his words,” an ESPN spokesperson said.

Well, we looked at the video several times and beg to differ with ESPN’s conclusion — vehemently differ.

ESPN has stood behind Smith’s denials. This time it did so publicly and contended it never even happened. Either the suits believe they didn’t hear Wednesday’s N-bomb, or they don’t want to come down on one of their marquee talents, a guy who has plenty of upside in his tank. None of this negates the fact Smith is damaging his credibility. In his world, he’s never dropped the N-word on ESPN.

Where exactly is Smith coming from? When the Riley Cooper N-word thing came down, Smith wondered: “What level of responsibility do we (African Americans) harbor considering the fact that it (the N-word) is something we use ad nauseam in the presence of people outside our community?. . . .We have to ask ourselves do we play a role in the ease that it comes out of other people’s mouths.”