Stephen A. Smith has become the undisputed face of ESPN over the years, and his daytime debate show First Take is the centerpiece of the network’s daily programming.
During an appearance on JJ Redick’s podcast, Smith recounted the beginning of his run with First Take alongside Skip Bayless, who Smith says he still has a close relationship with. Smith said that Bayless met him in a parking lot at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, and pitched him on the idea of teaming up for a show.
“I thought about it for a couple of days, I said ‘alright I’ll do it.’ One month later we were no. 1, and we’ve been No. 1 ever since. And so when it skyrocketed to that point it was like ‘oh [expletive], I didn’t see this coming. ‘ I mean, I knew we’d be successful, but I didn’t know that we’d skyrocket to the No. 1 morning show. And it happened a month after I arrived and it’s never changed. ”
Bayless, however, is taking issue with the way Smith is framing the story.
Bayless called out Smith’s “recklessly inaccurate” recollection of the situation in a segment on his podcast.
“I can’t tell you how wrong that was. It was so recklessly inaccurate. It was such shocking fabrication. And my first thought when [my wife] sent this to me to peruse, I thought ‘how could my brother Stephen A. turn on me like that?’
…. Stephen A. suggested that he saved and then made First Take. How can you save and make a show that was already as a big a billion-to-one success story as ESPN had ever seen? The ratings and revenues were impossibly great when Stephen A. joined me in 2012. With Stephen A. as my partner, First Take would never touch the NFL Monday ratings that it hit in 2011 pre-Stephen A. ”
Nets superstar Kevin Durant is keeping an eye on the drama, and reacted on Twitter.