Publish date:

Stephen A. Explains Why He Wanted Max Kellerman Off 'First Take': TRAINA THOUGHTS

1. No matter how you feel about ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, you have to give him credit for being open and honest about recent developments at First Take.

Smith appears on the latest SI Media Podcast, which dropped this morning, and pulled no punches in explaining why he wanted Max Kellerman off the show. 

"I thought it ran its course even though we were No. 1; numbers were dipping. Chemistry was an issue, and we needed to be better. I wasn't pointing a finger at him. I was saying WE did not work as a pair. 

I think that Max is one of the nicest guys in the world. He's incredibly knowledgable about his boxing and other sports, by the way. I knew there were a plethora of other opportunities within the company for him to be a part of, which has been proven because now he's with Keyshawn [Johnson] and Jay [Williams] on a nationally syndicated radio show in the morning for four hours, and he's got his own national television show in the afternoon from 2 to 3, This Just In, which I think is doing well and I wish him nothing but the best. 

I think that people get confused, thinking Stephen A. doesn't like Max. Couldn't be further from the truth. I like him and respect him. WE just weren't working anymore because the audience was telling us we had essentially just flatlined. We were the same. We weren't fresh together. 

So as a result of that, I told the bosses how I felt. Wishing him nothing but the best, rooting for him, making sure everyone knows if he needed me, I wouldn't hesitate to be there for him, but I'm not going to apologize to anybody for being committed to winning. And if I believe I'm part of a formula that's not going to win any longer, I'm going to change that formula. Whether it's me moving or them moving on, and that is the way I have always been and that is the way I will continue to be.

I'm incredibly excited the direction that First Take is is now. Molly [Qerim Rose] has been sensational. So have all the contributors. Michael Irvin on Mondays, Keyshawn [Johnson] on Tuesdays, Marcus Spears on Wednesdays, Dan Orlovsky on Thursdays, Tim Tebow on Fridays. With all the contributors like Mina Kimes, Kimberly Martin, Ryan Clark, Paul Finebaum, Jeff Saturday, the list goes on and on and on. Everybody's been fantastic. But it's fresh voices going up against me. I think the show is incredibly exciting. We're excited to be doing it. We're having a blast, and nothing feels stale now. 

And I've been doing this for nine years, so I think I'd have a pretty good idea—I've been No. 1 every single year I've done it—I think I kinda have an idea of what works. If I sat up there and said it's his fault, that's a different argument. That's not what I said. I said we don't work together and a decision needs to be made regarding us. And that's what I was taking responsibility for, and I will never run from that."

I asked Smith whether Kellerman agreed with his assessment of the show.

"No, he did not," Smith said.

Other topics discussed during the podcast include:

• Comments he's regretted over the years

• Has Smith ever said something you didn't mean for the sake of a debate?

• What makes a good sports debate?

• Is First Take's plan to eventually find one host?

• His reaction to being called a performance artist

SI Recommends

• Being spoofed by John Oliver

• How sports media has changed when it comes to opinion

• Athletes, coaches and front office people texting him during First Take

Smith also shared an incredible story about Kobe Bryant demanding Smith call him after the host talked about Kobe on First Take one day.

You can listen to the full podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify and Stitcher.

You can also watch the SI Media Podcast on YouTube.

2. The person who has put out the best Tom Brady–Bill Belichick content this week is former Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman. His offering today is just spectacular.

3. Jerry Seinfeld made an appearance in the SNY booth during last night's Marlins-Mets game and was hilarious as usual.

4. Giannis remains one of the easiest people to root for in sports.

5. If ever there was a game that screamed, "GIVE US PEYTON AND ELI," tonight's Bengals-Jaguars game is it. So answer this question.

6. Best slide ever.

7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: We are one day away from the Sopranos prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, being available in theaters and HBO Max. Here is the very first scene from the show's very first episode.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on AppleSpotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.