Skip to main content

Stephen A. Smith Makes Brutally Honest Admission About Max Kellerman's Departure

Stephen A. Smith looking on at the NBA Celebrity Game

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 14: Head coach Stephen A. Smith of Team Stephen A. looks on before the 2020 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game Presented By Ruffles at Wintrust Arena on February 14, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The Stephen A. Smith-Max Kellerman duo on ESPN's First Take came to an abrupt end earlier this year.

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.

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.

[Sports Illustrated Media Podcast]