ESPN hasn’t publicly rolled out the red carpet for Shannon Sharpe, but their talent has. The latest step there sees Stephen A. Smith already recruiting Skip Bayless’s soon to be former sparring partner.
Earlier this week, it was reported Sharpe reached a buyout agreement with Fox Sports that will make him a free agent after the NBA Finals. Sharpe spent nearly eight years with Skip Bayless on FS1’s Undisputed, but after multiple on-air blowups depicting a fractured relationship between the hosts earlier this year, the Pro Football Hall of Famer appears set to leave the show.
Ensuing reports have stated Fox Sports will have a hard time finding Sharpe’s replacement, with few candidates willing to work on Undisputed so long as Bayless is calling the shots. Sharpe, however, is expected to have many suitors. And according to Smith, ESPN might already be one of them. Smith addressed Sharpe’s looming departure from Fox Sports on Friday’s episode of his newly-renamed podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) June 2, 2023
“I don’t know what his plans are, I don’t know what he’s trying to pursue. I don’t know what he’s after,” Smith admitted. “But if Shannon Sharpe needs me, I’m happy to be here for him. And if that included him wanting to come on First Take, the bosses at ESPN know, that is something I would support.”
If anyone can relate to what Shannon Sharpe experienced as Skip Bayless’s co-host, it’s Stephen A. Smith. From 2012-2016, Smith was Skip’s full-time debate partner on First Take. When Bayless departed for FS1, Sharpe was brought in to debate him. Smith was left as First Take’s lead personality, where he’s continued to expand his platform as one of the foremost commentators in sports. Nearly eight years later, Smith is ready and willing to welcome Sharpe to ESPN once his divorce from Bayless is complete.
Currently, Smith debates against a rotating cast of analysts. It’s hard to imagine him altering that format for Sharpe. And a weekly spot on First Take might appear like a step back for Sharpe after a daily role on Undisputed. But if he’s looking to focus on his Club Shay Shay podcast, ESPN’s premier debate show can be a great place to promote it. It would certainly be interesting to see two of Skip Bayless’s former debate partners unite on one show.