Sports

Is Stephen A. Smitch Looking To Late-Night Streaming?

It’s opening night for the 2025 NBA season. After Inside the NBA guffaws its way through the opening game, a portion of the audience siphons off to Apple TV or Prime Video, where Stephen A. Smith is starting his opening monologue. Except he isn’t ranting and raving about Donovan Mitchell and Jalen Brunson getting swallowed up whole by the defending champion Oklahoma City Thunder’s backcourt. The Knicks need stars is a diatribe you can get by eavesdropping on Subway conversations any time of day. He’s rubbing his hands together and crying about how he’s thankful he’s not in Oooooklahoma City on this cozy fall night.

After an opening monologue spent ranting about how the most enticing aspect of Oklahoma City nightlife is the downtown cock ring, he transitions to his anticipation over the inaugural season of the NBA’s Las Vegas Flamingos and prepares to welcome his first guest. We haven’t reached that dystopian future yet, but the time is coming. Smith the reporter was replaced by Stephen A a long time ago.

Controversial statements dominate the Google algorithm and rule supreme on social media over expertise in modern sports journalism. On Friday night, ESPN Unplugged, which simulcast the Knicks and 76ers, was hosted by Kevin Hart and the Plastic Cup Boyz. The realm between sports and entertainment has already been flung open, but Smith wants to lend his own sensibilities. Smith already tried the late night thing with Quite Frankly nearly two decades ago. That show was canceled quickly, and I won’t knock it because I watched it, but the landscape has changed since then. Decentralized mediums have turned content into a mad scramble among personalities to be the loudest voice. Cue Late Night with Screamin A. The loudest and hardest-working face of ESPN might be ready to decamp from the Worldwide Leader in Sports if he doesn’t receive the payday he feels he’s entitled to.

Stephen A. Smith hasn’t made any secret of his desire to host a late night television show, or preferably succeed the same Jimmy Kimmel threatening to sue Pat McAfee. His second set design for The Stephen A. Smith Show even includes an empty couch. Meanwhile, Katt Williams’ grievance-filled polemic on Club Shay Shay against every known and unknown black celebrity who’s ever uttered a joke into a live mic while Shannon Sharpe exclaimed once every 10 minutes may have sped up that timeline. Sharpe’s interview happened the same week McAfee’s independent media brand inability to reign in cut off or Aaron Rodgers nearly blew up in his face. However, McAfee wields more power and earns more money than Smith. As Front Office Sports senior writer Michael McCarthy explained in a recent podcast, Smith’s contract expires in 18 months and late night might be on the horizon.

Smith had to be watching the absurd numbers on Katt Williams’ two-hour long polemic on Shannon Sharpe’s platform, Cam Newton causing an outcry with bad analysis or his 3-hour marathon interview with Charleston White and told himself he can top that.

It would be a gamble. Late night television is as different from First Take as the In-Season Tournament sprint is from the NBA postseason triathlon. ESPN offers security even if he’s a key cog in the ESPN machine and Smith isn’t oblivious to Skip Bayless’ declining ratings after he separated from Sharpe, but the late night space is a daunting one in this age of fractured audiences.

Traditional late night television is the coal industry and it’s Smith’s turn to take it out to pasture. The only thing worse than Smith screaming at the top of his lungs in a purple striped suit about Dak Prescott is him doing the same thing at 11pm with Michael Irvin in the corner as his Andy Richter. Maybe Smith has the brand now and his audience is committed enough to watch him rant at an ungodly hour, but history suggests that a journalist who thinks he’s a celebrity bloviating over guests about his top five “ladies” won’t prosper in a late night format.

Follow DJ Dunson on X: @cerebralsportex




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