Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were long-time partners on ESPN’s “First Take” and have maintained a good relationship with one another in the years since.
However, it appears that recent comments by Smith have created a beef between the two media personalities.
The root of the mini-feud between Smith and Bayless can be traced to comments that Smith made in a recent appearance on J.J. Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast. Smith was discussing his rise to prominence at ESPN as a part of “First Take” and explained that Bayless had recruited him to join the program in 2012.
“Skip Bayless comes to me in the parking lot of ESPN’s campus in Bristol, Connecticut, and he says, ‘I know you’ve got your plans. You love the NBA. You love being out on the road. You love being in the locker room. But I need you,” Smith said on the podcast. “I’ve done all that I could to take this as far as it can go. I need you, please. Just give me three years. I think we’ll knock it out of the park.'”
“I thought about it. Those were clearly my best options,” Smith added. “They weren’t about to give me my own show or anything like that at the time. I thought about it for a couple days and said I’d do it. One month later, we were No. 1, and we’ve been No. 1 ever since.”
— TheOldMan&TheThree (@OldManAndThree) June 10, 2022
That’s a heartwarming story, right? Well, not exactly. Bayless didn’t take kindly to the comments and said they “blindsided” him and “stung him to the core.”
What was the problem? Bayless took issue with how Smith characterized his arrival to the show in 2012. He explained extensively on his own podcast that the show was already doing “impossibly great” when Smith came aboard as Bayless’ co-host.
“Stephen A. was suggesting that he saved and then made ‘First Take’,” Bayless said. “How can you save and make a show that was already as big a billion-to-one success story as ESPN had ever seen? The ratings and the revenues were impossibly great when Stephen A. joined me in 2012.”
— The Skip Bayless Show (@SkipBaylessShow) June 16, 2022
Indeed, Bayless had already taken the show to new heights with his debates surrounding the efficacy of Tim Tebow when Tebowmania overtook the NFL. With Smith, the program continued to grow, but Bayless believes it would have grown regardless of whether Smith was his co-host.
“And I had taken ‘First Take’ as far as I could? Seriously?” Bayless asked. “I was just getting started. The rocket had just launched in 2011. Stephen A., how could you?”
Bayless also said that he had lobbied for Smith as his co-host; he wanted Smith to be his broadcast partner, but he didn’t need him as Smith had implied.
How did Smith respond to Bayless’ clap-back? He took to Twitter to explain that everything happening was “a misunderstanding,” and he went out of his way to praise and thank his long-time friend and broadcast partner.
I didn’t lie about a damn thing. This is nothing more than a misunderstanding. As I’ve stated on MANY occasions, Skip Bayless made First Take. He carried it on his back for years. And when he asked me to come on, he needed me because he carried the show on his back for years. He needed a permanent host. He asked & chose ME.
Because of HIS decision, I’ve enjoyed the success I have. Because of him, I’ve become what I’ve become at ESPN. Skip Bayless is my BROTHER! I will always love this man and I will always be grateful. No matter how far I continue to climb, I have HIM to THANK. My comments about the state of First Take at that time is what I was told. It certainly wasn’t meant to slight my brother. I would never intentionally do that. The only sad part about that portion is that he appears to not know that…..despite my consistent commentary over the years regarding how much he means to me. Check the record. The rest I will address with my brother Skip Bayless privately.
Smith also wrote that this statement would be his “only comments on the matter.”
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It looks like this back-and-forth may be quashed in the not-so-distant future, and it may happen outside of the public eye. Still, fans of the two personalities will be interested to figure out whose account is more accurate. That includes Kevin Durant, who told his followers to “stay tuned” to the feud.
Sources say somebody is lyin. Stay tuned
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) June 16, 2022