Stephen A. Smith is an American sports journalist and a television and radio host best known for working as a commentator on ESPN’s sports commentary show ‘First Take’. Born in Bronx, he grew up in Hollis, New York and completed his high school graduation from the Thomas Edison High School. Following graduation, he enrolled into the Fashion Institute of Technology and after dropping out of college after a year, he enrolled into the Winston-Salem State University. It was at the university that he began his sports journalism career and wrote for the university newspaper named The News Argust. He later worked as a sports journalist for esteemed publications such as New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. In the mid-2000s, he began his television and radio career. Before appearing on the ESPN show ‘First Take’ as a regular commentator, he had an on-off relationship with the channel as he appeared on many ESPN shows. He currently happens to be a feature writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and hosts his own radio show called ‘The Stephen A. Smith Show’. He is known for his bold style of commenting and has landed himself in many controversies over the years.
Childhood & Early Life
Stephen A. Smith was born Stephen Anthony Smith, on October 14, 1967, in Bronx, New York City, to middle class African-American parents, as the fifth among six children. His father was a very good baseball player, which happens to be one of the reasons Stephen grew up with an interest in athletics and played basketball since his early years. He grew up with four sisters and a brother, his brother later passed away in 1992.
Stephen graduated from the Thomas Edison High School, in Queens, New York with good grades. He also happened to be a good basketball player and played the game throughout his high school years.
Following his high school graduation, Stephen enrolled into the Fashion Institute of Technology, a public college, in Manhattan. However, before he graduated from the institute, he received a basketball scholarship to attend the Winston-Salem University, which was a historically black university, located in North Carolina. There he became a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, which was an African-American fraternity.
He was a key member of the college basketball team and trained under the basketball Hall of Fame coach Clarence Gaines. Along with being active on the field, he was also exploring his journalistic side, and wrote for the university newspaper named The News Argust. In one of the columns, he wrote about how their coach Gaines was not anymore fit to coach the team, due to his ongoing health issues. Thus, he has always been known for his bold journalistic style.
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Right after his graduation from the college, Stephen began working in the sports column of the Winston-Salem Journal, and began writing as a clerk. After working there for some time, he began working with the New York Daily News and also worked briefly for the Greensboro News and Record.
One of the biggest early breakthroughs of his career happened in 1994, when he began working for The Philadelphia Inquirer. First, he covered the NBA games and was given the job of covering the Philadelphia 76ers. Eventually, he also began writing in the general sports column.
In the mid-2000s, he moved from print and began his television and radio career in the year 2005. In that year, he began hosting his own television show on ESPN titled ‘Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith’, which was an hour long show that premiered on August 1, 2005. The show ran for two years and got cancelled in 2007. The show’s format included discussions on topics such as sports, politics and current events.
By then, he had become a semi-known television sports personality and that led to him appearing as guest on a few television sports commentary shows such as ‘Jim Rome is Burning’ and ‘Pardon the Interruption’.
In April 2005, he also began his radio career, hosting a show on WEPN in New York which ran for three years. In April 2008, he quit the radio show in order to focus more on his television journalism career.
In 2007, he ended his long-time association with The Philadelphia Inquirer, as the main sports columnist and was demoted to be the general assignment reporter. However, the relationship remained troubled and it ended in 2008 when Stephen started his own blog. However, in 2010, Stephen was instated to his previous position on the condition that he would delete all his personal political views that he had expressed on his website.
Later, he began appearing on the Sunday morning edition of the ESPN show called ‘SportsCenter’, but that association did not last long as in mid-2009, Stephen announced that he would be leaving ESPN for good. ESPN said that the lack of a mutual understanding caused his exit, while another source confirmed that the attempts to reach a negotiation took place between the channel and Stephen and they failed to reach a mutual agreement.
In January 2010, Stephen replaced Steve Czaban to host the Fox Sports Radio morning show. During the show, Stephen correctly predicted that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were going to join Miami Heat in 2010. In 2011, he had yet another major career breakthrough when he became a FSR NBA Insider and thus, he ended his association with his morning radio show.
His on again-off again relationship with ESPN continued in the early 2010s as in April 2012, ESPN announced that Stephen was joining the channel again, this time for the show called ‘First Take’. He was hired on a permanent basis to appear on the show five days a week. He was signed up to feature in a different format of the show called ‘Embrace Debate’, where he was to debate show’s other host Skip Bayless.
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He was known mostly for his frank approach to commentary which also somehow landed him into several controversies. In 2014, during a debate on ‘First Take’, he mentioned that women can provoke domestic abuse while discussing the charges on a football player. This statement led to a massive outrage and led Stephen to be suspended by the ESPN for a week.
In March 2015, he made yet another bold statement, this time regarding Philadelphia Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly. Stephen accused him of being racist while selecting players for his team. Chip denied the allegations against him and later Stephen backtracked and said that he never used the term ‘racist’ against Chip.
In 2015, he further initiated a controversy during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where he made a sexist comment about the players ‘not wanting to mess up their hair’. Stephen later said that it was a joke and later apologized in a series of tweets.
In addition, he also began hosting boxing matches and in 2019, he became a UFC commentator when ESPN became the television broadcaster for the UFC. He further made commentary on the Academy Awards in 2020.
He has also appeared on fiction television shows and made his acting debut in 2007 with a guest role on the show titled ‘General Hospital’. He later said that he was a long-time fan of the show and that was why he agreed to appear as a television reporter on one episode of the show. However, in 2016, he further began playing a character named Brick on the show, and the recurring character made multiple appearances.
He has also appeared on many Oberto beef commercials. In the commercials, he appeared alongside several famous sportsmen.
In 2007, he appeared playing a supporting role as Allan in the Chris Rock starring film titled ‘I Think I Love My Wife’. The film was a failure at the box office and the critical scale.
Stephen A. Smith is currently single. He has not disclosed his personal life openly yet. However, he mentioned in an interview that he was once engaged and is a father to two daughters.
He currently lives in North Jersey.
Stephen has denied all claims of ever being a drug user. He said that he saw the drug-addicts growing up and that kept him away from drugs all his life.