After nearly seven years have passed since they screamed at each other about sports on live TV, Stephen A. Smith says he’s happier without Skip Bayless.
Smith brought the nomadic book tour promoting his memoir Straight Shooter to Barstool Sports this week for an interview with Dan “Big Cat” Katz and PFT Commenter on Pardon My Take. During the interview, they asked Smith about Bayless and whether a reunion is possible.
Last year, Bayless admitted he thought he was going to reunite with Smith on ESPN in 2020. But Fox ultimately matched his contract offer, keeping him on Undisputed with Shannon Sharpe. And after that near reunion, it sounds like Smith has fully moved on.
“I will always miss Skip, Skip is my guy,” Smith admitted. “I love him. I don’t always agree with him…we’ve gone our separate ways. He’s doing what he’s doing, I’m doing what I’m doing. I’ll never root against him. I’ll always be grateful to him for what he has done for my career.”
Smith added that he owes Bayless an incredible debt of gratitude for fighting to bring him onto First Take back in 2012. That’s a minor pivot from last year, when Smith claimed Bayless essentially begged him to join First Take because the show had plateaued. Smith was more gracious to Bayless during his interview with Pardon My Take, but he still pushed back on the notion of reuniting with his former First Take partner.
“At this stage and point in my life, I’m happier without him,” Smith said on Pardon My Take. “I’m not going back. That’s not what I want anymore. But it has nothing to do with a debate show, it’s that I have other aspirations. I’ve been named the executive producer of First Take. I have my own production company…I have my own podcast…I’ve got a lot of aspirations. I want to do late night television one day, potentially succeed Jimmy Kimmel.”
While Smith has no interest in forfeiting being the architect of First Take to bring back the show’s old template with Bayless, he’s not opposed to a one-off down the road.
“If you talk about one final day with Skip Bayless, I’d welcome that any day of the week just to pay homage for what he’s done for me,” Smith said. “And to beat him again. I’ve always beaten him. He never beat me in a debate.”
With Smith launching his own podcast and being open about having career aspirations that exceed what ESPN is able to offer, Front Office Sports is speculating that he could eventually reunite with Bayless on YouTube, citing the big payday Pat McAfee received after he went independent. Both of their contracts are set to expire in 2025, making a reunion possible.
But Smith doesn’t appear to be interested in seeing his career go backwards. And considering his desire to succeed Jimmy Kimmel on ABC or run for President of the United States, sharing the spotlight with Bayless for a second time probably isn’t on Smith’s bucket list. Bayless doesn’t seem like the veep type.