ESPN recently confirmed lingering rumors by announcing that Max Kellerman was leaving First Take. The move immediately shifts the focus toward finding Stephen A. Smith‘s next debate partner. However, Smith may not have to wait long to find out who that will be.
Max Kellerman departs from ESPN’s First Take
Following weeks of speculation, ESPN recently announced that longtime sports media personality Max Kellerman will no longer serve as a co-host on its highly successful daily morning tv show First Take.
Kellerman initially took over the role alongside Smith in 2016 after Skip Bayless left the network to join FS1 to co-host “Undisputed” with NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe. The latest development pushes him into a new role of working with Keyshawn Johnson and Jay Williams on ESPN’s morning radio show in the retitled “Keyshawn, JWill & Max” program that will debut on Sept. 7.
Kellerman is taking over for Zubin Mehenti, who has been away since April due to health issues. Mehenti is expected to return hosting “SportsCenter” once he returns. Meanwhile, Kellerman will also continue to host “Max on Boxing” on ESPN2 while receiving another new show.
A recent report from the New York Post detailed that Smith internally pushed to have Kellerman lifted from the show because he wanted a more challenging co-host.
“According to sources, Kellerman has a ‘smartest guy in the room attitude,’” media reporter Andrew Marchand wrote. “And ultimately, (Smith) wanted it to be him versus the world.”
With Kellerman out of the picture, the massive change will soon push a new face in the chair opposite of Smith.
Stephen A. Smith may soon have a new debate partner on ESPN’s First Take
ESPN’s First Take now sits without a permanent co-host alongside Smith.
The network will roll with a rotating group of talent before settling on the new longtime fixture. It appears that Smith may not have to wait long to know who will sit opposite of him, as reports indicate it could be NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin.
The former Dallas Cowboys great has served in an analyst role since stepping into retirement. Irvin previously worked with ESPN as part of the Sunday Countdown crew before being let go in 2010. He shortly after that joined NFL Network, where he works as an analyst on various tv programs.
According to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, Irvin is in talks with ESPN to potentially debate with Smith on Mondays to discuss the latest NFL happenings. With the speculation running rampant, the 55-year-old did nothing to squash the rumors when asked by Sports Illustrated‘s Mike Fisher.
“Fish,” he told me on Tuesday afternoon, “how many times in the last 32 years have I given you a ‘no comment”?
“Never,” I told him.
“Well,” Irving chortled, “you’re about to experience a first.”
The no comment response is quite telling, which indicates that Irvin can’t speak about the situation. Nonetheless, it appears that Smith will shortly have a debate partner at least every Monday.
Stephen A. Smith remains focal point for ESPN’s First Take
The search for a new co-host only further solidifies Smith‘s status as ESPN’s megastar.
He’s become arguably the most recognizable face in the Network, as his $12 million annual salary indicates. Smith will likely play a significant role through his input to find a new debate partner. McCarthy also noted that the company is considering other options, such as Jay Williams, Keyshawn Johnson, and Marcus Spears.
Nonetheless, whatever direction ESPN heads, it will be a carefully planned out route.