Steven A. Smith is one of the most recognizable personalities in sports – and not just because he has one of the loudest voices! For years, Steven A. has been a fixture on our radios and televisions, breaking insider NBA news and unabashedly sharing his sometimes-controversial opinions on everything sports. Today, Steven A. Smith is ESPN’s highest paid sportscaster earning almost 8 million a year – more than many of the athletes he covers. However, unlike countless professional athletes who rose to prominence on the backs of their natural ability, Steven A. was only able to reach the pinnacle of sports media due to his relentless drive to work harder than anyone else. In the face of plenty of obstacles and even more doubters, Steven A. Smith always stayed true to himself. His career is the perfect embodiment of our motto – don’t do they, DUYU!
Born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, Steven A. Smith grew up in a gritty New York City environment that so often encapsulates life in the concrete jungle. He credits his instilled values to the five women who raised him – his late mother and four older sisters. From a young age, Steven A.’s promise was known to those around him. The drug dealers and gang members whose influence his mother feared actually protected him because they recognized he had a bright future.
After briefly attending New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Steven A. earned a scholarship to play basketball at Winston-Salem State University, a historically black college (HBCU) in North Carolina. Yet it wasn’t playing basketball that sparked his eventual career in sports. Instead, while on the team, Steven A. penned an eyebrow-raising article for the university paper that argued for the retirement of his own coach, a legendary figure in college basketball who unfortunately suffered from health complications. THEY SAID Steven A. should be expelled, but he stood by his opinion, undeterred. This would foreshadow Steven A.’s signature bold and uncompromising persona that has defined his career.
“I feel a responsibility to make sure that the voices from our community are heard. I do not feel a responsibility to agree with them. No one tells me what to think. I think for me.”
After college, Steven A. Smith was hired by the Winston-Salem Journal and began writing as a clerk in the sports department. He later wrote for the Greensboro News and Record, another North Carolina publication, and also the New York Daily News, where he started out covering homicide out of necessity.
Eventually, in 1994 Steven A. got his first big break as a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. As always, he had to work his way up from the bottom, first covering high school sports, then college sports, then professional sports, and finally becoming a general sports columnist – a heralded position seldom held by African American writers. It was here that Steven A. began gaining popularity as a notable NBA writer and columnist covering the Philadelphia 76ers.
During the NBA lockout in the 1998-1999 season, Steven A. ascended to national prominence as seemingly the most plugged-in NBA reporter in the country. His insider knowledge and exclusive breaking news earned him appearances on television networks from CNN to Fox Sports to ESPN. Then, in 2005, Steven. A. became an unprecedented triple threat in the world of sports media – co-hosting a New York City-based radio show, hosting Quite Frankly with Steven A. Smith on ESPN’s television station, all the while continuing to write for the Philadelphia Inquirer. This level of production was unheard of, but Steven A. never met a challenge he was not willing to face.
That mentality would truly be put to the test in 2009, when ESPN declined to renew his contract. Initially, Steven A. was devastated. THEY SAID he was too loud and outspoken. At ESPN, the coverage was supposed to be unopinionated, and substantially eclipse the personality of the commentator. True to form, however, Steven A. Smith got back to work.
“You have haters from all walks of life. I could care less who wants me to fail. They inspire me.”
He became an on-air contributor of Fox Sports radio where he was, unsurprisingly, the first to break the news of Hall of Famer Allen Iverson’s retirement. A year later he began hosting a morning show, where he correctly predicted that Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James would sign with the Miami Heat. Despite suffering a setback, Steven A. continued to grind toward the road to success.
Finally, in 2012, three years after essentially being cut by the network, Steven A. Smith returned to ESPN to join First Take alongside another outspoken sports personality, Skip Bayless. When Skip left ESPN in 2016 for Fox Sports, he was replaced by Max Kellerman, effectively making Steven A. the star centerpiece of the highly acclaimed debate show. Today, at a time when network television continues to suffer due to streaming and cord cutting, First Take has experienced unparalleled success. It sits atop the pedestal as ESPN’s most popular show, thanks in no small part to the alluring persona and powerful opinions of Steven A. Smith.
“You don’t have the right to hold somebody accountable for standards you refuse to apply to yourself.”
In November of 2019, ESPN awarded Steven A. Smith with a new contract that pays him close to 8 million dollars annually – making him the highest paid sportscaster for ESPN. The network that once shied away from strong personalities with contentious opinions is now wholly dependent on it. Despite the supreme reputation of First Take, Steven A. continues to host a radio show on ESPN – The Steven A. Smith Show – and makes frequent appearances on ESPN’s SportsCenter and Get Up. He may not be a player, but his relentless work ethic truly rivals that of the superstar athletes he covers. Love him or hate him, Steven A. Smith is a self-made icon, brand, and household name. He never would have reached the pinnacle of modern sports media if he had succumbed to his critics and DID THEY? “Don’t do they, DUYU!”