It is 2022, and two old friends are going at it.
Skip Bayless is not happy with former co-worker Stephen A. Smith. He explained why he was “stung” and “blindsided” by comments the ESPN star recently made on JJ Redick’s podcast.
Smith told Reddick that in 2012, ESPN management was dissatisfied with the “ratings and revenue” of Bayless debating a rotating crew of opponents on what was then the “Cold Pizza” morning program on ESPN2. He added that he spoke with Bayless in the ESPN parking lot in Bristol.
“I know you’ve got your plans,” Bayless told him. “You love the NBA. You love being out on the road. You love being in the locker room. But I need you. I’ve done all that I could to take this as far as it can go. I need you, please. Just give me three years. I think we’ll knock it out of the park.”
“I thought about it. Those were clearly my best options,” Smith said. “They weren’t about to give me my own show or anything like that at the time. I thought about it for a couple days and said I’d do it. One month later, we were No. 1, and we’ve been No. 1 ever since.”
Bayless was irate because he recalled the situation much differently.
Bayless spent over 40 minutes on his podcast breaking down his own version of the “First Take” origin story.
“WHAT?!…I cannot tell you how wrong that was. It was so recklessly inaccurate. It was such shocking fabrication.”
“Stephen A. was suggesting that he saved and then made First Take. How can you save and make a show that was already as big a billion-to-one success story as ESPN had ever seen? The ratings and the revenues were impossibly great when Stephen A. joined me in 2012.
“With Stephen A. as my partner, First Take would never touch the NFL Monday ratings that it hit in 2011 pre-Stephen A. And I had taken First Take as far as I could? Seriously? I was just getting started. The rocket had just launched the year before in 2011.”
“Stephen A., how dare you.”
It shouldn’t take very long for Smith to deliver a response.