Stephen A. Smith Keeps It Too Real About His “Tipping Point” But Is Revealing His Closed-Door Venting The Smartest Move During Layoffs Or The Biggest Flex?

Stephen A. Smith is known unofficially as Mr. ESPN due to his ubiquity across the sports broadcast platform and poster boy positioning for the network. However, that doesn’t come without its challenges for Smith and although he benefits greatly from being the face of flagship show, “First Take,” Smith recently revealed that he let his employers know there had to be limits to his unique brand of performance art.

Working too many programs came with challenges and he had to place a rare boundary with his bosses. Smith said that he felt stretched thin by his ESPN duties. A typical day for Stephen A looks like:

7 a.m. Eastern Time Start

Two-hour prep for “First Take”

10 a.m. ET tape “First Take”

12 p.m. Finish “First Take”

Then it would get tricky as when he was on “NBA Countdown” from 7-7:30 p.m. and during the season he would be at the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut, to “damn near” midnight to get more screen time at halftime of each game.

“The tipping point for the first time arrived this year,” Smith said on “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” “I’m not one of those guys, Bill, where it’s ‘SportsCenter,’ it’s ‘[NBA] Countdown,’ it’s ‘First Take’ — that doesn’t faze me at all. I can do those things, and it’s not a problem. It’s the time in between.”

“You’re sitting around for like four or five hours to do three minutes of television after you were all on television all morning and start of the afternoon,” Smith said. “That was too much.”

Doing Too Much

Smith is perceived in the broadcast world as the ultimate company man, and his status as a bulletproof personality for the network seems more apparent in the wake of his surviving the massive layoffs of top-tier talent. About 20 of the network’s top on-air talent found out they were receiving a pink slip at the end of June. The list included stars like Jeff Van Gundy, Jalen Rose, Keyshawn Johnson, Max Kellerman, Andre Ward, Matt Hasselbeck, and Steve Young.

Still, Smith expressed his frustration with the one thing that he gets credit for, the multiple demands by ESPN on his time. This time he had to say no to the evening NBA show,

“And for the first time in my career, I went to the bosses and I was like, ‘Yo, I can’t do this. Not this. For the first time in my career, it was like … I can’t do this again. Not this. I could, you know – ‘SportsCenter,’ ‘First Take’ – that’s a given. But to spend so many hours in the afternoon after spending so many hours in the morning on a job, that was the tipping point for me.”

“If we had the time at ESPN to have a postgame show like TNT does, I would have been hyped and wired for that,” Smith said. “What happens is once you do ‘Countdown,’ you recognize the fact that over the next four to five hours, you’re gonna be lucky if you’re gonna get eight minutes of air time.”

Family Ties

For Smith, his family reminded him of what is most important besides being one of television’s most successful sports analysts.

“You know my daughters jumped all up in me and they were like, wait a minute now,” he said, “‘Where you at? We usually go out to dinner, you know? Where you been? What about our movie dates?'”

Being a television analyst was widely becoming the natural progression for former athletes, and more might be required with the layoffs for standouts like Smith. However, now he is going for only some of the opportunities.

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