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#pounditSaturday, September 18, 2021

Why did Stephen A. Smith want Max Kellerman off ‘First Take?’

Stephen A. Smith

Max Kellerman appeared on ESPN’s “First Take” for the last time on Wednesday. Kellerman has spent the past five years hosting the show alongside Stephen A. Smith, and that partnership would have continued if Smith wanted it to. So why did Smith want Kellerman gone?

According to Outkick’s Bobby Burack, Smith had several issues with Kellerman as his debate partner. One was that Smith didn’t consider Kellerman to be a great debate partner. Smith apparently felt that Kellerman was a fence-sitter and did not take a definitive stance often enough. When Smith hosted “First Take” with Skip Bayless, the two almost always took opposite sides and ferociously defended them. That is the dynamic Smith wants on the show.

Burack also says Smith felt uncomfortable discussing social issues with Kellerman. That probably wasn’t as much of an issue with Bayless, as there wasn’t nearly as much spillover between politics and sports television five years ago.

A third reason that Smith wanted Kellerman off the show is that he reportedly does not view Kellerman as his equal. That is why ESPN’s solution is to have a rotation of analysts debating Smith rather than a co-host who appears on “First Take” with him every day.

Smith was out having surgery on Wednesday, so he didn’t appear on Kellerman’s final show. He did, however, call in.

Smith is the highest-paid employee at ESPN. He makes more than $10 million annually. It’s no surprise that he has a tremendous amount of pull with the network. We already know of one strong personality who could be added to the “First Take” rotation, and Smith will have plenty of say in the others.

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