Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless

A few weeks after Stephen A. Smith claimed Skip Bayless begged him to join First Take in 2012, Bayless chose to requite the allegation by stating Smith was in hot pursuit of his services not long ago.

Last summer, Smith booted Max Kellerman from First Take after the duo worked five years together, but according to Bayless, Smith was willing to make a change sooner. While discussing Kevin Durant’s desire to leave the Brooklyn Nets with four years remaining on his contract, Bayless argued the need to honor contracts in his latest podcast episode. In doing so, Bayless admitted he fielded serious offers and nearly returned to ESPN a couple of years ago, despite ultimately remaining with Fox.

“I just believe in contracts. Contracts are contracts. I have a contract,” he said on The Skip Bayless Show podcast. “A couple of years back, Stephen A. wanted me to return, to reunite with him at ESPN. ESPN made an offer, in my contract was a matching clause and Fox matched and I’m still here. And I go to work with all my heart and soul every day.”

Bayless’ initial contract with Fox Sports was set to expire sometime in the late summer of 2020. More than a half-year later, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported Bayless quietly signed an extension with Fox Sports when his deal was up, but not before ESPN made a strong play at reuniting him with his former First Take partner. Although ESPN’s pursuit of Bayless was documented by Marchand, this is the first time the Fox Sports host publicly admitted a reunion with Smith came very close to happening.

“I love working with Shannon Sharpe,” Bayless claimed of his current partner who he nearly jettisoned. “It was different with Stephen A. I was open to returning [to ESPN], if [Fox Sports] didn’t match, but I’m here and I give you every last ounce to earn the money that they pay me. It’s called a contract.”

“Contracts are contracts,” but there’s very little loyalty in sports and sports media from the side of both the employer and employee. Durant isn’t getting up and walking away from the Brooklyn Nets. He requested a trade, but if they don’t find fair value in return for Durant, Brooklyn is within their right to hold him to the contract he signed last year. If Bayless was able to find a situation better than the one he sought to build at Fox Sports, he should have taken it. But Bayless didn’t stick with Undisputed out of loyalty to Fox Sports or Shannon Sharpe, he stayed because they paid him.

[The Skip Bayless Show]

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