On Thursday, ESPN announced that, beginning on Sept. 14, Max Kellerman will host a live, one-hour show called This Just In on the network each afternoon. This news comes only weeks after word broke that Kellerman would be leaving First Take amid rumors that Stephen A. Smith, arguably the most influential on-air talent employed by the network, pushed for a split of the long-time partnership. On the same day that Kellerman’s new gig became official, Smith publicly acknowledged that he did want Kellerman to leave First Take, and he was matter-of-fact in his statements.
"The rumors are accurate in terms of me wanting him off the show… A lot of people don't realize not just the work that goes into it, but it's a chemistry you have and sometimes it just stalls."
Stephen A. Smith on wanting Max Kellerman off First Takepic.twitter.com/hqZmms2kJC
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) September 10, 2021
“The rumors are accurate in terms of me wanting him off the show,” Smith said. “Let’s get that out of the way. Yes, I did. We don’t have a bad relationship. I think he’s a real good guy. I appreciate what he did for the show. We were No. 1 for five years. We stayed No. 1, and I appreciate that.”
Over the course of his two-plus minute response, Smith revealed that he believes he has delivered “33,000 takes” over the course of his nine years on ESPN’s daytime debate program. That exposure has undoubtedly been good for Smith and, as he acknowledges, the tandem with Kellerman was successful in the ratings. However, he went on to say that the duo’s chemistry isn’t what it once was, at least in his view, and Smith notes that he was confident Kellerman had “landing spots” elsewhere at ESPN while he pushed for the shakeup.
“It’s a chemistry you have and sometimes it just stalls,” said Smith. “And the audience lets you know that it is what it is, and you feel the need for something fresh, you feel the need to retool…. It’s not like I wanted the guy to be fired or anything like that. 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 and all of that other stuff. It wasn’t really about asking him to be off the show. It was about the fact that we, together, as far as I was concerned, was not a great partnership anymore, and that was something that needed to change.”
Given the lofty profile of both Kellerman and especially Smith, the palace intrigue aspect of this change certainly rose to the forefront and the rumor mill was churning. To his credit, Smith owns the fact that he was at least part of the impetus toward the change, and he also used the word “flabbergasted” when discussing the manner in which the entire change was covered and discussed. Regardless, Kellerman will be firing his takes on platforms that do not directly involve Smith, and we now know for sure that Smith was part of the reason for the on-air divorce.