Word on the street is that Smith pushed Kellerman out the door. The 48-year-old Kellerman was never the star-studded co-debater Skip Bayless was, and First Take as a whole lost its luster as a result.
Smith sat down with Jimmy Traina on the latest Sports Illustrated Media Podcast to discuss Kellerman’s departure from the show. In doing so, he revealed key details as to why the decision was made.
The bottom line is Smith wasn’t a fan of his on-air chemistry with Kellerman and the show as a whole began seeing a ratings dip.
“I thought it ran its course,” Smith said of his work with Kellerman, as transcribed by The Big Lead. “Even though we were number one. Numbers were dipping. Chemistry was an issue and you know, we needed to be better. I wasn’t pointing the finger at him. I was saying WE did not work as a pair… The audience was telling us that we had essentially just flatlined. We were the same. We weren’t fresh together.”
It’s worth mentioning Smith went onto compliment Kellerman, calling him a “nice guy” and praising his boxing expertise.
But in the end, Kellerman did not see eye-to-eye with Smith on the First Take decision.
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) September 30, 2021
This is eye-opening stuff.
Stephen A. Smith clearly has great power within the ESPN network. He wanted to end his on-air relationship with Max Kellerman and the Worldwide Leader obliged without much of a fight.
Kellerman has since launched his own show, This Just In, during ESPN’s afternoon slot.
Smith, meanwhile, has been joined by multiple co-debaters on First Take since Kellerman’s departure.