It’s the opening night of the 2025 NBA season. As „Inside the NBA“ wraps up with laughs, part of the audience migrates to Apple TV or Prime Video, where Stephen A. Smith begins his opening monologue. However, instead of ranting about Donovan Mitchell and Jalen Brunson being devoured by the backfield of the reigning champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder, he unleashes the tirade „The Knicks need Stars,“ a rant one might overhear in Subway conversations at any given time. He rubs his hands together, lamenting how thankful he is to not be in Oooooklahoma City on this cozy autumn night.
Following the opening monologue, he rants about the most enticing aspect of Oklahoma City’s nightlife penis ring in downtown before shifting his focus to the upcoming inaugural season of the NBA Las Vegas Flamingos, preparing to welcome his first guest. While this dystopian future is yet to materialize, Smith, the reporter, has long been replaced by Stephen A.
Controversial statements dominate the Google algorithm and sway the expertise in modern sports journalism on social media. On Friday night, ESPN Unplugged, simultaneously broadcasting the Knicks and 76ers games, was hosted by Kevin Hart and the Plastic Cup Boyz. The crossroads between sports and entertainment is already open, but Smith wants to bring in his own sensibility. Smith previously tried the late-night thing with Honestly Speaking almost two decades ago. The show was quickly canceled, and while I won’t for it having seen it, the landscape has since changed. Decentralized media has turned content into a mad competition among personalities for the loudest voice. Enter Late Night with Screamin A. The loudest and hardest-working face of ESPN might be ready to depart from the global leader in sports if he doesn’t get the payday he feels he’s entitled to.
Smith has been outspoken about his desire to host a late-night TV show or even succeed Jimmy Kimmel, who is threatening to sue Pat McAfee. His second stage setup for The Stephen A. Smith Show even includes an empty couch. Meanwhile, Katt Williams‘ polemic diatribe on Club Shay Shay against every known and unknown Black celebrity who ever cracked a joke into a live microphone, while Shannon Sharpe shouted every 10 minutes, may have expedited this schedule. Sharpe’s interview took place in the same week where McAfee’s independent media brand failed to take the reins, or Aaron Rodgers almost blew up in his face. However, McAfee has more power and makes more money than Smith. As Front Office Sports senior writer Michael McCarthy stated in a recent podcast, Smith’s contract is coming up in 18 months, and it could go late into the night.
Smith had to endure the absurd numbers from Katt Williams‘ two-hour polemic on Shannon Sharpe’s platform, Cam Newton’s controversial analysis, or his three-hour marathon interview with Charleston White and told himself he can top it. It’s a gamble. Late-night television is as different from First Take as the sprint of the in-season tournament is from the NBA postseason triathlon. ESPN offers security, but while he’s an essential cog in the ESPN machine, Smith is unaware of this. Skipping Bayless’s plummeting ratings after parting ways with Sharpe, venturing into the late-night space in times of fragmented audiences is a daunting affair.
Traditional late-night TV is a cash cow industry, and it’s Smith’s turn to bring it to pasture. The only thing worse than Smith bellowing about Dak Prescott in a purple pinstripe suit is doing it at 11 p.m. while Michael Irvin stands in the corner as his Andy Richter. Perhaps Smith has now built the brand and engaged audience to watch him rant at an inconvenient hour, but history shows that a journalist who fancies himself a celebrity, swooning over his guests Top 5 of the „Ladies“ will not thrive in a late-night format.
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