Stephen A. Smith seems to have plenty of pull at ESPN.
After news was confirmed that Max Kellerman was being removed from the network’s debate show, First Take, reports surfaced that Stephen A. wanted his co-host off of the show.
While the reports say that nothing was personal, it looks like ESPN listened to their $12 million man and gave him his wish.
Andrew Marchand of the New York Post shared the news.
Since he has become a giant in the industry, his moves reverberate. Smith has wanted Kellerman off “First Take” for years. Though it wasn’t personal, according to sources, Kellerman has a “smartest guy in the room” attitude, and Smith wanted more of a debating challenger. And ultimately, he wanted it to be him versus the world. Whatever you think of the hot-take shows, they live on sparks, and Smith and Kellerman never had the flair of Smith and Skip Bayless. Smith has told everyone who needs to know, including Kellerman, that it didn’t work well enough, according to sources.
To be fair, Stephen A. has a point.
As for what will happen in Kellerman’s absence, it appears that a rotating group of panelists will end up sitting opposite of Stephen A. at the debate desk. One of those guest commentators appears to be NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin.
— Michael McCarthy (@MMcCarthyREV) August 24, 2021
“Get ready for some potential TV fireworks. ESPN is considering bringing on Michael Irvin to debate Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s “First Take,” sources tell Front Office Sports,” Michael McCarthy wrote on FrontOfficeSports.com.
“The deal to bring Irvin aboard as a guest commentator is not finalized said sources. It’s expected to be limited to ‘First Take.’ The NFL Network analyst is not expected to appear on ESPN’s ‘Sunday NFL Countdown’ or other NFL-related programming. ESPN is eying NFL Mondays as a natural staging ground for Irvin vs. Smith on ‘First Take.’”
Whether that will give the show the juice and dynamic that it has been lacking remains to be seen.