When Skip Bayless announced his departure from ESPN and First Take, the one candidate that came to mind in Bristol and with Stephen A. Smith was to replace him with SportsNation’s Max Kellerman. Now Kellerman has been the co-host of SportsNation when the show moved from Bristol to Los Angeles. Smith has been basically courting Kellerman to convince him to come back east to be the co-host and Max has accepted. He’ll begin as co-host/co-debater with SAS and moderator Molly Qerim on Monday, July 25. His last day on SportsNation will be this Friday.
Of course, First Take had to make a grand announcement:
— First Take (@FirstTake) July 11, 2016
We have the obligatory quotes from Kellerman, Smith and ESPN executive Norby Williamsson:
“I’m thrilled to join the excellent team at First Take,” said Kellerman. “Years back, on-the-air and in the hallways of ESPN Radio New York, Stephen A. and I would engage in detailed and thoughtful discussions on sports and every other topic you can imagine. To do that again, now for the First Take audience, is going to be a lot of fun.”
Stephen A. Smith added, “I’m ecstatic to have Max on board. We’ve known one another for years. We worked at ESPN New York together and we both love our boxing. More importantly, Max is smart, quick on his feet and is never — ever — afraid to go at anyone. Just the kind of partner I wanted. It’s time! Let’s go! Can’t wait!”
Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, production, stated, “Whether you’ve seen Max on SportsNation, boxing coverage or heard him on radio, you know his passion and sports knowledge break through the clutter with smart opinions and lively debate. We are confident that the chemistry on the set will make for a compelling commentary with Stephen A. and Molly.”
Kellerman and Smith are not only going to be First Take co-horts, but practically kindred spirits on how they have two tours of duty with the Worldwide Leader. Kellerman had a meteoric rise in his first tour initually as an analyst on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights and then helping to mold, shape and host Around the Horn when it first premiered in 2002. But after he couldn’t reach an agreement to remain at the network, Kellerman went to Fox Sports Net where he hosted the old I, Max until he left that network as well.
He bounced around hosting an ESPN Radio show in NY, joined HBO and then started hosting an ESPN Radio show in Los Angeles in 2010. When SportsNation moved to Southern California 2013, Kellerman hosted the show with Marcellus Wiley and in 2014, with Michelle Beadle.
So now, Kellerman will head back east to be on First Take and we’ll see if the ratings which maintained a certain level when Skip Bayless on can continue or if there will be a fall-off.