Shaun White is almost universally considered to be the greatest snowboarder of all time. A three-time Olympic gold medalist, he is a household name in a sport without many. However, despite his unrivaled success, Shaun has not always been on top. Supremely talented but nonetheless doubted, he had to overcome criticism, adversity, and defeat before cementing his G.O.A.T. status in the winter sport. For that reason, his career is a shining example of our motto – don’t do they, DUYU!
Growing up in San Diego, California, a young Shaun White got his first exposure to snowboarding when he joined his older brother on the slopes. An avid skateboarder, Shaun was instantly hooked, and before long his parents began making the three-hour drive up to the mountains each weekend. Unable to afford the resorts, his parents eventually bought a used van so that the whole family could stay near the mountain overnight.
“My mom would put me, my brother, and sister in the car and we’d drive up and ride the mountain all day, or spend the weekend if we were really going to live it up.”
It was on those Southern California slopes that Shaun White cut his teeth in snowboarding. By the age of seven, Shaun had already won several competitions and landed a sponsorship with Burton, a popular brand in the sport. He turned pro at 13, and three years later he became the youngest rider ever to win the US Open.
Then, at the age of only 19, Shaun White represented the United States at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Competing in the half-pipe, he was almost knocked out during the qualifying rounds, earning a paltry score of 37.7 out of 50 on his first run. Suddenly, the pressure was on. THEY SAID that perhaps the snowboarding phenom didn’t have what it takes to compete on the world’s biggest stage. Undaunted, however, Shaun rebounded. He scored a 45.3 on his second run, squeaking into the final round, before triumphantly staking his claim to the gold medal with a resounding score of 46.8. Finally, the legend of Shaun White was born.
The 2010 Winter Olympics would prove to be more of the same, allowing Shaun to further showcase his dominance in the sport. Competing again in the half-pipe, his signature event, he scored a 46.8 on his first run in the final round. That score would have been enough to win gold, but he followed it up with a 48.4 – an Olympic record. At that point, Shaun White seemed unstoppable.
“I think the way to become the best is to just have fun.”
In the 2014 Winter Olympics, however, Shaun came up astonishingly short. In the final round of the half-pipe, Shaun scored an uncharacteristic 35 (out of a possible 100) before finishing with a respectable top score of 90.25 on his second run. Unfortunately, though, 90.25 was merely the fourth-best score – not enough to even earn a medal. Shaun’s defeat was an utter shock to a world that had come to expect greatness from him. THEY SAID he was done, and that his reign as the king of snowboarding was over.
Apparently, Shaun never got the news. He came back to the 2018 Winter Olympics’ half-pipe event with a vengeance, posting a blistering 98.5 in the qualifying rounds before earning a dramatic 97.75 on his third and final run of the final round to win gold. It was a snowboarding masterclass that left even those who did not follow the sport awestruck. Four years removed from being the talk of the Olympics for his failure to medal, Shaun White had reclaimed his rightful place atop the sport’s throne.
“You take a crash, you get back up and next time you succeed and that’s a great feeling.”
Over the course of his career, Shaun White has won three Olympic gold medals in snowboarding (a record) and 15 gold medals at the X games (also a record). He is the only athlete who has ever won gold at both the Winter and Summer X Games (competing in snowboarding and skateboarding) and has won 11 ESPYs for Best Male Action Sport Athlete and Best Male US Olympic Athlete. At the next Summer Olympics, where skateboarding will be competed in for the first time, he is hoping to become the first athlete to win a medal at both the Winter and Summer Games. Judging by his career, we see no reason to doubt him.
Shaun White is the snowboarding G.O.A.T., but he never would have reached (and surpassed) the pinnacle of success in the sport if he had listened to his critics and DID THEY. “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!”