Stephen A. Smith

After the NCAA Championship Game, Stephen A. Smith was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Among many things, Smith and Colbert discussed the circumstances of Stephen A.’s release from ESPN in 2009. It seemed wild that there was a time Smith wasn’t employed by ESPN, but he left in 2009 and was off ESPN’s airwaves for the next three years. Smith returned in 2012 to be a permanent commentator on First Take and has since expanded his presence on their networks.

Smith was blunt with Colbert about why the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement. It came down to money.

“Man, I wanted more money,” Smith said. “And they said, ‘No.’ I thought I was worthy of more. They said, ‘We don’t think so. Good luck trying to prove otherwise.’ They were right, I was wrong. At the time.”

Stephen A. said that he realized he made a mistake the day after, with his mother helping him get to that realization.

“I mean, it kind of helped when my mother said, ‘You kind of deserved it. You know, you were acting up.” And stuff like that. Put a mirror on my tray when she served me my breakfast and said, ‘You kind of deserved it, you know. So humble yourself, look in the mirror, think about what you need to do better, and then come back and talk to me.’

“And so, I looked at that, I thought about it. And then I plotted and planned, and I recognized that the biggest mistake I made was that I didn’t master my own business. I thought I was worth more than I was. I didn’t know definitively. So in the years to follow, I made sure I knew. And as a result of knowing, I’m here.”

The sports landscape was drastically different in 2009 than it is today. Podcasting, social media, and sports debate shows were in their early stages, and FS1 wouldn’t be a thing until 2013. Needless to say, Smith picked the wrong time to go for more money when there weren’t nearly as many options back then.

Now, Smith has done an excellent job diversifying himself in various things to make him more valuable to ESPN, starting with First Take and embracing debate. Say what you want about debate shows, but you can’t deny that Stephen A. saw where things were going and jumped on board. That paid off in more ways than one, and my guess is Smith is currently getting paid way more than he thought he was worth in 2009.

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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