Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith on First Take, ESPN, 2014. Photo credit: ESPN

It’s not quite Kevin Costner investing $38 million of his own money to make his four-part western epic Horizon but it may be the closest we can come within the sports media world. On Tuesday, ESPN announced the unveiling of a Stephen A. Smith-Religion of Sports original series entitled Up For Debate: The Evolution of Sports Media.

Smith serves as Executive Producer for the project. “We’re diving deep into the heart of the game, breaking down barriers and showcasing the evolution of sports discourse,” he is quoted as saying in the ESPN press release. “From the legends who paved the way to the current Kings and Queens of the mic, we’re bringing you a front-row seat to the passion and intensity that fuel debates in today’s generation of sports. So buckle up! Here we come.”

When you think about sports debate, certainly Smith is the first name that comes to mind. While his former First Take partner Skip Bayless was the central star in the genre throughout much of the 2010s, Smith usurped him and took ‘Embrace Debate’ to new heights.

While Smith’s stardom has only risen in the last several years at ESPN as the network continues to build around him, Bayless has become a forgotten man at FS1’s Undisputed. Now Smith has a cult of personality on his own at ESPN, dominating the airwaves every second you look (for better and worse) and joined by a supporting cast that includes Bayless’ former longtime FS1 co-star Shannon Sharpe, who has also surpassed Bayless in his own right.

Up for Debate is a three episode series and ESPN has provided a description for all of the episodes which chronicles the past, present, and future of sports media as seen through debate.

Episode 1: It Was Written: Journey into the world of sports discourse with Stephen A Smith, the charismatic frontman of ESPN’s First Take, as he takes center stage in dissecting the current landscape of sports media. We dive into the historical roots of sports debate, tracing its origins from print journalism to on-camera personalities like Howard Cosell, and eventually evolving into the debate format that’s present today.

Episode 2: Hot Takes + Cold Pizza: Explore the surge in sports debate shows where the spotlight is on personalities who push the boundaries, with opinions and fiery takes that put athletes under the microscope.

Episode 3: Success + Successors: As the sports media landscape continues to evolve, personalities like Shannon Sharpe and Cam’Ron are blazing a trail for the future by building their own platforms and launching personal media brands.

It’s often said that history is written by the winners, so one would expect this to be a triumphant victory lap for Stephen A. on how he reshaped much of the sports media culture in his image. While the format has seen lots of criticism over the years (where do we even start?), there’s no doubting the impact that it has had on not just the sports media, but the entirety of televised entertainment.

As a reminder, this project is presumably the one that led to the behind-the-scenes kerfuffle between Smith and Pat McAfee when they reportedly had an intense disagreement. It will be fascinating to see if there’s any hints in the series on what could have led to that argument between two of ESPN’s stars. And it will be equally as interesting to see if this series really goes behind-the-scenes and talks about the ins and outs of the Embrace Debate movement. How much of Bayless’ history will be mentioned? Will Max Kellerman be acknowledged at all? (Neither are listed in the names of contributors in the ESPN announcement.) Will there be a critical eye towards ESPN investing in its loudest voices above all others?

Or… will this simply be the Stephen A. Smith version of A Burns for All Seasons….