Stephen A. Smith has opened up about why Max Kellerman was kicked off ESPN’s “First Take.” And the sports-talk personality did so with his trademark candor.
“The rumor’s accurate in terms of me wanting him off the show. Let’s get that out the way,” Smith told New York City-based hip-hop radio station Hot 97 on Thursday. “Yes, I did.”
“We don’t have a bad relationship,” Smith, whose “First Take” tenure preceded Kellerman’s involvement by years, said. “I think he’s a real good guy.”
Smith also praised Max’s “talent,” “professionalism” and “work ethic.” He said sometimes chemistry “just stalls” — and that “the audience lets you know” that.
“We, together, as far as I was concerned, was not a great partnership anymore,” Smith explained.
“It’s not like I wanted the guy to be fired,” he continued. “I knew that there were landing spots for him available at this network that would generate just as much, if not more, revenue for him.”
Smith likened the “First Take” roster change to the kind that happen all the time in the world of sports, the very industry ESPN covers. Smith said Kellerman “disagreed” with his opinion on the matter — but ESPN brass eventually did.
“He also knew that it was nothing personal,” Smith said.
Watch the video above.
Kellerman left “First Take” in late August. He will be filling his mornings as the third host of ESPN Radio’s morning talk show, which has been retitled to “Keyshawn, JWill & Max.” Kellerman will also continue to host the weekly boxing show, “Max on Boxing” on ESPN2, and will launch new daily TV series “This Just In” on Tuesday afternoon.
Michael Irvin and Tim Tebow will be among the guest rotation on “First Take” that appear opposite its now-solo star Stephen A. Smith. Irvin will join the show on Mondays during the NFL season, while Tebow (who was attempting an NFL comeback as tight end with the Jacksonville Jaguars) will bookend each week on Fridays.
During the week, the guest commentators will include Paul Finebaum, Keyshawn Johnson, Mina Kimes, Kimberley A. Martin, Monica McNutt, Jessica Mendoza, Chiney Ogwumike, Dan Orlovsky, Kendrick Perkins, Marcus Spears, Brian Windhorst and Damien Woody.