A long conversation with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith (PRINT)

Stephen A. Smith’s opening line perfectly summed up his entire night at Kent State: “You asked for me, you got me.”

There’s no unedited or altered version of Smith— the real-life version is the same as the one seen on television. Smith’s boastful and confident, ranging on cocky attitude best compares to someone whose voice is perpetually stuck with CAPS lock on.

Smith has been a journalist for over 22 years, including 12 spent as an analyst at ESPN. Currently, Smith is a co-host, along with Skip Bayless, on ESPN2’s First Take. The show debates the hottest sports topics around the globe. This past September, the show achieved its highest rating and it was the most-watched month ever with an average of 458,000 viewers, according to ESPN.

Ian Flickinger, Stephen Means and Ian Klein sat down with the brash and long-winded analyst to talk about his journey to ESPN, the obstacles he faced along the way life and the wide variety of relationships he’s developed over the years.

On his feud with Kevin Durant: 

“It doesn’t even phase me. The fact of the matter is I only reacted to it because he called me a liar. It was a direct assault on my professional credentials and my personal integrity and I will not let that stand. Kevin Durant is a good guy, actually. Kevin Durant is a very, very good guy. He’s a superstar player, one of the greatest players in the world. His family, his friends and all the people that I know are incredible people, but he lost his damn mind when he said that to me, and there’s no question about that. Not to mention the fact that he was the one lying. I had spoken to Kevin Durant a few months ago. I was not aware of any issues that he had with me…  So this notion that we didn’t speak, or whatever the case may be, was a flat out lie. And his inclination to go that route just simply said to me that there was something to hide.”

“But, in the end, it’s disappointing because he’s a good guy. It’s disappointing that he went that route and I sincerely hope there’s no residue of animosity or anything like that, because I certainly don’t have it. But if somebody’s going to start something, I’m the type of person that’s going to finish it. And I’m not going to fight you or anything like that, but if you try and call me out based on your proclamations that I’m lying, I’m going to beat you down with my truth. That’s what I’m going to do. It will never change and I don’t know if anybody has noticed, but Kevin Durant is a star at what he does. Some would say I’m a star at what I do and he won’t have the last word, I can promise you that. That will be me.”

On his big break:

“The first moment is usually the biggest break because the hardest step to get is the first one. You’re pounding the pavement because you’re begging for somebody to believe you. Once you’re in there and you do the job, then you’re asking them to believe in what you’ve done as opposed to have faith, blind faith, and believe that you just do it. That’s why the first opportunity is so hard because you’re really usually devoid of a resume that validates what you can do. That’s why ,when you get that first opportunity, you should always have an incredible appreciation for because it usually entails somebody giving you an opportunity based purely on faith and guts, as opposed to knowledge based on your resume.”

On his relationship with Allen Iverson:

“Well, as much as I’m willing to acknowledge Winston-Salem sports department, and its managing editor Joe Goodman of the paper, for what they did to me. They’re not the only ones. The same debt of gratitude goes to Allen Iverson, he elevated my career to another stratosphere. His greatness as a player and his maverick mentality— doing things his way— you know bucking the system, per say and being a trendsetter and a trailblazer in different regards, good and bad, the fact remains that Allen Iverson, the debt of gratitude that I owe him is immeasurable….”

“He’s a guy, he’s a professional athlete and he may be the only guy that I will absolutely, completely confess to you I have zero objectivity about. I love him. He’s like a little brother to me and it’s important he does well in life, that’s he always OK because in his own way, he truly cared that I did well. He truly wanted to see me succeed. There were time where he didn’t talk to anybody and talked to me just because it was me and he didn’t have to do that.”

“And not every athlete doesn’t have to do that and most of them won’t. But Allen Iverson did that for me and that’s why I have so much love for him. Every chance I get when I’m on First Take I mention him,  always celebrate him. Even though he hasn’t always done the greatest things in life, I unapologetically state, ‘He’s like a little brother to me.’ I got him for life. Long, long, long from now when my career is over, when his career has been over for a little while, I’m going to still be there for him. You can bet the house on that because I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it wasn’t for him either.”

For an extended version visit KentWired.com