Sports media king Stephen A. Smith is probably considered the leading voice in the entire industry. Reports say he’s secured a huge bag — a five-year extension worth $10 million per.
When he speaks, everybody with a sports pulse listens and he rarely values anyone else’s opinion on sports — especially hoops.
That’s why it was finally time for Stephen A. to answer the question that avid listeners of his radio show and ESPN First Take faithful have been asking for the past few years.
Who Is Champ?
Stephen A often mentions “his boy Champ” from Detroit — especially when discussing the legacy of LeBron James. Champ has been a guest “caller” on Smith’s show many times over the past five years. Smith seems to prefer the narratives that Champ brings to the table over those of his corporate, talking head peers.
This week, Champ was finally introduced to the sports world by Smith on his ESPN afternoon radio show (which is ending in 2020) live from Smith’s plush L.A. studios.
The simulcast currently airs Monday-Friday on ESPN and on ESPN radio. Stephen A. introduced Champ as his boy and one of his premier callers during hoops season.
Long before, Champ made his way to the ESPN table, Smith would sporadically mention Champ on his show, bringing light to the unique and often unpopular opinions that the mystery man from Motown delivers.
Given Smith’s reliance on his basketball acumen, Champ’s well-rounded sports brain offers Stephen A. a reliable sounding board and also a target at times.
Back in January on an episode of ESPN’s First Take, Stephen A. acknowledged Champ as the only guy who picked Clemson to win the National Championship over Alabama before the season began.
Then Smith took a shot at Champ — a well-respected basketball guru and mover and shaker — for Champ’s insistence that LeBron James is not the GOAT and not even in the Top 10 players of all time.
Who Is Champ? Why Does ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith value his sports opinion so much ? pic.twitter.com/CzmE02CGua
— LA MAQUINA DE SOMBRAS (@FANalyst1) January 9, 2019
Champ’s anti-LeBron narrative ruffled Smith’s feathers and the debate carried into Smith’s afternoon radio show where he and Champ went at it concerning King James’ place in history.
At that point, people started wondering, so who is Champ?
Why does Stephen A. keep bringing his name up?
Why does Stephen A. Smith respect this man’s sports knowledge so deeply?
We spoke with Champ about his rise from text buddy to sports guru with a direct link to the biggest name in sports media. In other words, he’s the PLUG. But he’ll never describe it like that.
“Real respect real” is how Champ describes it.
CHAMP: I earned Stephen’s respect…Just being myself…I been reading the newspaper since second grade. I played and studied the game. I look at it deeper than statistics. I put the GM and coaches hat on …I’ll use the eye test…analytics…It’s just a different perspective of how I view basketball and football, where the folks that are on TV are coming from a journalist’s perspective. I call them “panelists. I don’t feel like the common narrative is the only narrative.
Champ was introduced to Stephen A. Smith years back by FS1 sports legend Rob Parker. Through text battles, phone calls and multi-layered sports talk, Smith developed an appreciation of Champ’s perspectives as well as the inside information Champ provides from having his ear to the streets and a relationship with high school, college and NBA players and coaches across the country.
Smith’s been shouting him out and referencing Champ’s narratives ever since. Especially when it comes to LeBron — a topic that causes great division between the two.
Champ presented me with three false narratives that the mainstream media promotes about King James.
1. “For instance, the biggest narrative in sports over last decade is that LeBron’s a walking triple double, but Westbrook is going on three straight seasons of averaging a triple-double.”
2. “Another narrative is Lebron makes everybody better, but Steph Curry is the guy that all of the elite players want to come play with from Durant to Boogie Cousins.”
3. “The consensus opinion is that Lebron is the best player in basketball, but he didn’t want to take Durant at the clutch moments in NBA Finals. The Media picked the wrong guy and now they have to create narratives to say they got it right, instead of saying you know what I got it wrong.”
Champ is a sports heavy hitter that the mainstream basketball world needs to know. The 38-year-old former Sports Rap Radio with Champ & The Gambler host, provides insight like a coach, his knowledge of all sports is evident, he has a swag that most TV suits don’t possess and a fresh perspective that networks need to pursue.
Champ says he never wanted to do television or radio and have to follow a narrative he didn’t believe in because it was popular or good business. Now that he knocked his first national appearance out the park, he might have no choice but to step into the arena.
With SAS in his corner — a sports talk titan whose presence on ESPN will increase under the new contract — the sky is the limit for this rising force on the sports scene we now know as Champ.