When Skip Bayless announced his departure from ESPN and First Take, many wondered how the show would continue with such an importance placed on the hosts.
As of Monday, we have learned that ESPN has elected Max Kellerman, currently of SportsNation to fill the seat that Bayless has held for 13 straight years.
Smith had reportedly been pushing to convince Kellerman to return back to Bristol from Los Angeles. He will begin as co-host/co-debater with SAS and moderator Molly Qerim on Monday, July 25, with his last day on SportsNation coming this Friday.
First Take made it official on Twitter Monday morning:
— First Take (@FirstTake) July 11, 2016
Kellerman, Smith and ESPN executive Norby Williamsson spoke on the matter:
“I’m thrilled to join the excellent team at First Take,” said Kellerman. “Years back, on-the-air and in the hallways of ESPN Radio New York, Stephen A. and I would engage in detailed and thoughtful discussions on sports and every other topic you can imagine. To do that again, now for the First Take audience, is going to be a lot of fun.”
Stephen A. Smith added, “I’m ecstatic to have Max on board. We’ve known one another for years. We worked at ESPN New York together and we both love our boxing. More importantly, Max is smart, quick on his feet and is never — ever — afraid to go at anyone. Just the kind of partner I wanted. It’s time! Let’s go! Can’t wait!”
Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, production, stated, “Whether you’ve seen Max on SportsNation, boxing coverage or heard him on radio, you know his passion and sports knowledge break through the clutter with smart opinions and lively debate. We are confident that the chemistry on the set will make for a compelling commentary with Stephen A. and Molly.”
Kellerman has a slow rise to host of one of ESPN’s most popular shows, beginning with ESPN as an analyst for Friday Night Fights, then skipping over to Around the Horn, where he hosted among other positions when it first premiered in 2002. Kellerman then took a position at Fox Sports Net after not beginning able to reach an agreement to renew his ART contract. Kellerman also delved into radio and bounced around some more including a stop at HBO before coming back to ESPN. When SportsNation moved to Southern California 2013, Kellerman took up the hosting gig alongside Marcellus Wiley and the popular Michelle Beadle.