Stephen A. Smith: The Diverting and Bombastic Voice of ESPN and Sports


Photo by Evan Angelastro, Taken on December 11, 2019, Some Rights Reserved,

Stephen Anthony Smith is known for being very vocal and having a strong, eccentric personality for ESPN. He has gained the most recognition for his show, “First Take”, which he hosts with Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim. In the past, he has jokingly referred to himself as the most annoying person in sports because of how vocal and boisterous his media presence is. Smith is actively changing the face of sports and creating a more entertaining way of confidently delivering news surrounding sports while chipping in with his hot takes. 


Smith’s bombastic personality attracts so many viewers and listeners to ESPN for sports news and people can’t seem to get enough of him. Even people who find him obnoxious can’t pull themselves away from listening to him. His energy is enticing and his natural aptitude has been very beneficial for ESPN. 


“You have haters from all walks of life. I could care less who wants me to fail. They inspire me,” he once said.


Smith’s contribution to the world reaches past his influence on the world of sports; it extends to his contribution to racial equality awareness by taking steps that not many African Americans before him were able to take. By 2003, he was one of only 21 African Americans in the country with a sports column. Smith has also utilized his large platform to spread awareness on important issues while strongly encouraging the NBA and its players to do the same. Over the summer, the NBA vowed to be proactive by making changes to fight for racial justice and giving their players more freedom to voice their opinions. In addition, they pledged to contribute $300 million dollars over the next ten years towards social equality. Smith himself had fallen victim to inequality when he experienced getting forced out of his car by eight armed police officers with his daughter in the car because he made an ‘illegal left turn’ in downtown Atlanta. 


Smith once said, “My aspiration is to talk beyond sports, to use sports as a venue to talk about what really matters to so many people out there.” He continued, “I want the world, not just the sports world.”


Smith has worked hard to earn his influence and recognition. He was born in Queens, New York, and ended up attending the Fashion Institute of Technology for only a year before receiving a basketball scholarship to Winston-Salem State University, an HBCU, where he started writing for the school’s newspaper and worked hard to obtain his bachelor’s degree in communications. After graduating, Smith jumped around and held several newspaper writing jobs until he moved to the Philadelphia Inquirer where he would remain for the next fourteen years. He started out as a general sportswriter but worked his way up to having his own general sports column where he had the creative freedom to write about anything related to sports. Nearing the end of his time with the Philadelphia Inquirer, he started making more appearances on TV and the radio, resulting in less time to dedicate to his writing jobs.


However, when one door closes, another one opens. Smith’s time in Philadelphia was valuable, but it was time for him to move on and broaden his horizons. His radio career started when he became the host of a two-hour sports talk show on New York’s WEPN which ended up being taken over by ESPN in 2007. His job of hosting the sports talk show ended, and he began to work for ESPN as a basketball analyst with a show called “NBA Shootaround”. This is where he gained his reputation of being a fearless and boisterous sports reporter. While sometimes viewers and even producers disputed his presence on the network, ESPN executives admired him and craved the energy he brought to the network. He was what they needed to attract a larger audience. After many ups and downs with the sports network, in 2012, he was given the opportunity to host ESPN’s show, First Take, where he and his colleagues give their expert takes on sports events and then break them down to their purest element.


Smith has made his momentous mark on sports media in the best way he knows how. The future is still full of opportunities for him, and he won’t stop until he’s satisfied with his work. He has made his presence known across the world and his impact has been boundless. Smith is a force to be reckoned with and is actively changing the face of sports with his powerful voice and refreshing authenticity.