Stephen A. Smith on Shannon Sharpe Credit: The Stephen A. Smith Show

Shannon Sharpe officially signed a new contract at ESPN this week, extending his deal to contribute to First Take and other programs just a year after being pushed out of Undisputed and FS1. In a monologue to open his podcast on Wednesday, Stephen A. Smith gave Sharpe his flowers for the work he has done at ESPN and the way in which he has overcome the challenges he faced after leaving Fox.

Smith praised Sharpe as a tremendous teammate and person, deserving of significant investment from the worldwide leader.

“There’s so many people that do such outstanding work for (First Take), but Shannon Sharpe is on another level,” Smith said on Wednesday’s episode of The Stephen A. Smith Show. “What he’s done for the show, what he’s done for me, I can’t say enough about.”

Smith said Sharpe brings consistent energy and commitment to First Take. Sharpe often hosts the show when Smith has a day off, and frequently joins Smith in studio from Los Angeles.

Their partnership is just as good as Smith believed it would be when he ushered Sharpe into the ESPN family last summer.

“I don’t deserve a whole bunch of props for bringing Shannon Sharpe onboard. Shannon Sharpe came onboard because Shannon Sharpe was an asset that I knew would work tremendously well on First Take,” Smith said. “I didn’t give him anything other than recognition for what tools and what assets he brought to the table.”

Smith also pumped up Sharpe for his growth as a sports analyst and entertainer over the years in a difficult industry.

“As Black men, we go through a lot. And there’s a lot of challenges, and we’ve got to face them head on,” Smith said. “He talked about being this dude, you’ve got a lisp, you’re a Black man, you look like the Hulk for crying out loud, you’ve got public speaking issues to work and things of that nature … imagine what he had to face.”

Sharpe has discussed seeing Charles Barkley as an inspiration for Black southern men like him who spoke differently than most people on television. And Sharpe has often referenced his brother, Sterling, as a role model for hard work on the football field and off it.

Before betting on himself at ESPN last year, Sharpe contributed to NFL studio coverage at CBS for many years before cutting his teeth in the coliseum of debate with Skip Bayless on FS1. Now, he has one of the biggest podcasts in all of media and has the sports world at his fingertips thanks to deals at ESPN and with Colin Cowherd at The Volume.

“He deserves every penny and every nugget of investment that ESPN has agreed to place in him,” Smith said.

With professional stability once again, it will be fascinating to what Sharpe does next.

[The Stephen A. Smith Show]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.