Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless have vastly different opinions of LeBron James, but there’s one thing they do agree on. Both say that Skip’s seemingly over-the-top criticism of James is genuine.

Smith joined the I Am Athlete podcast this week with hosts Brandon Marshall, Adam “Pacman” Jones and LeSean McCoy. During their conversation, Smith was asked about athletes having to deal with unjust media criticism.

“No one’s more critical of LeBron James than Skip Bayless,” Smith said. “What I will tell you is, he ain’t playing. He means it.”

Ranking LeBron James as the ninth best player of all time, referring to the superstar as “Queen James,” criticizing him for hitting a buzzer-beater three, mocking his teenage son, Skip Bayless established himself as the premier LeBron James hater years ago. And as it became harder to justify his criticism, the sportscaster has only dug his heels in further.

While most people assume Bayless’ negativity directed at James comes from a trait of stubbornness, not authenticity, Stephen A. Smith says his former First Take partner believes everything he projects.

Smith went on to back his claim by sharing a story about Bayless that occurred during their early tenure as debate partners on ESPN, long before First Take even premiered. During a 2005 SportsCenter segment, Bayless made the bold claim that all professional athletes should have a mandatory 11 p.m. curfew, sparking a heated debate with Smith.

Following the show, Smith complimented Bayless on taking such a contrarian stance for the sake of entertainment. But with the cameras turned off and no one else around, Bayless assured Smith that his opinion was authentic. From that moment on, Smith knew everything Bayless said was genuine, and every topic they discussed was going to be an argument.

“I’m gonna always miss my man,” Smith said of Bayless. “For the purposes of a debate show, oh my lord, he’s a godsend. Because I’ll never agree with him! I walk in everyday knowing we’re gonna disagree. For a debate show? It don’t get no better than Skip.”

[I Am Athlete]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to