Max Kellerman to Replace Skip Bayless on ESPN’s ‘First Take’

Veteran sports commentator has carved out a niche as one of the nation’s premier boxing experts

Max Kellerman
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Max Kellerman will permanently replace Skip Bayless as the “First Take” co-host who will debate Stephen A. Smith on a daily basis starting on July 25.

The announcement was made during Monday’s edition of the show. “Oh, it’s going down,” Kellerman said about his new gig before immediately being asked for a hot take on Kevin Durant. Kellerman’s last day as co-host of “SportsNation” will be July 15, and he will also walk away from his role on ESPN Radio’s “Max & Marcellus” on 710AM in Los Angeles.

“I’m thrilled to join the excellent team at ‘First Take,’” Kellerman said. “Years back, on-the-air and in the hallways of ESPN Radio New York, Stephen A. and I would engage in detailed and thoughtful discussions on sports and every other topic you can imagine.  To do that again, now for the ‘First Take’ audience, is going to be a lot of fun.”

Kellerman was the original host of ESPN’s “Around the Horn” and has carved out a niche as one of the nation’s premier boxing commentators. He most recently co-hosted ESPN’s “SportsNation” with Michelle Beadle and Marcellus Wiley. He’s also a prominent member of HBO’s boxing coverage team.

The show displayed a pre-written message from Smith, saying that he is “ecstatic” to have Kellerman aboard. 

“We’ve known one another for years. We worked at ESPN New York together and we both love our boxing. More importantly, Max is smart, quick on his feet and is never – ever – afraid to go at anyone,” Smith said. “Just the kind of partner I wanted.”

Kellerman has also had stints on MSNBC, Spike TV, CNN and Fox Sports during his career. The New York native moved to Los Angeles for “SportsNation” but will relocate back to the East Coast where “First Take” is filmed at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.

“Whether you’ve seen Max on ‘SportsNation,’ boxing coverage or heard him on radio, you know his passion and sports knowledge break through the clutter with smart opinions and lively debate. We are confident that the chemistry on the set will make for a compelling commentary with Stephen A. and Molly,” ESPN executive V.P. of production Norby Williamson said.

Last month, former ESPN employee Colin Cowherd hinted that Kellerman was close to landing the gig. During a Periscope session, Cowherd was asked about “SportsNation,” the show he used to co-host with Beadle.

“Michelle Beadle’s a friend,” Cowherd said. “Max Kellerman’s leaving that show, he’s gonna be on ‘First Take.’ Yeah, it’s a done deal. Well, pretty much.”

Beadle tweeted on Monday that she is taking the day off to celebrate the career of Tim Duncan, but Cowherd hinted that she is upset that Kellerman is leaving “SportsNation.”

Bayless left ESPN’s “First Take” to take a gig at Fox Sports. Smith promised at ESPN’s Upfront presentation in May that the show will be “even better” without his longtime co-host.

“I’m thrilled that Max will join us and am very excited for the next chapter,” moderator Molly Qerim said.

The schedule for the remainder of the week on “First Take” has been set, with a variety of ESPN Radio personalities filling in for Bayless and Smith, who is on vacation.

Steve Mason and John Ireland co-hosted the show on Monday, while Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman will embrace debate on Tuesday. Peter Rosenberg, Don La Greca and Rick DiPietro will appear on Wednesday, with Freddie Coleman and Bomani Jones taking over on Thursday. The week will end with Jalen Rose and David Jacoby serving as guest co-hosts on Friday.

Twitter exploded with sexism in June when ESPN used an all-female panel to replace Smith and Bayless.

“First Take” airs from 10 a.m. to Noon ET every weekday on ESPN2.