Stephen A. Smith is still explaining his “First Take” breakup with former co-host Max Kellerman.
Smith, who addressed Kellerman’s “First Take” exit earlier this month, corrected what he believes are false narratives that he “doesn’t like” Kellerman on the latest “Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.”
“You know, I think that people get construed thinking, ‘You know what, Stephen A. doesn’t like Max.’ It couldn’t be further from the truth. I like him and respect him,” Smith said.
“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,” he continued, before complimenting Kellerman on his new roles at ESPN.
Kellerman’s new hour-long show, “This Just In,” premiered on Sept. 14, and airs from 2-3 p.m. ET. He serves as host of the show, and is joined by guests — including ESPN NFL reporter Kimberley A. Martin — to provide news, opinion and analysis on the day’s trending topics and other headlines.
Kellerman also joined ESPN’s radio show, “Keyshawn, J-Will and Zubin,” having replaced Zubin Mehenti.
“I knew that there were a plethora of opportunities within the company for him to be a part of, which has been proven because he’s now with Keyshawn and Jay on a nationally syndicated radio show in the morning for four hours and he’s got his own national television show in the afternoons from 2 to 3, ‘This Just In,’ which I think is doing well and I wish him nothing but the best,” Smith said.
Earlier this month, Smith confirmed he wanted Kellerman gone from “First Take.”
“The rumors are accurate in terms of me wanting him off the show. Let’s get that out the way. Yes, I did [want him off the show],” Smith said in an interview on Hot 97, adding that it was “nothing personal.”
Smith explained that the partnership between him and Kellerman had run its course after five years together on “First Take.”
Smith noted that the final decision to remove Kellerman from the show wasn’t his.
“I just didn’t feel that moving forward he and I together was the right call and I said that to the bosses,” Smith said. “Evidently this time, they understood and they made the move.”
He added that viewers had noticed that the pair’s chemistry had “stalled” and “you feel the need to retool.”
Ahead of Kellerman’s exit from the show in late August, The Post’s Andrew Marchand reported that Smith didn’t believe the pair worked well together. Following weeks of reports, ESPN announced Kellerman’s departure from “First Take” on Tuesday, Aug. 24.
The “new era” of “First Take,” as advertised by host Molly Qerim Rose, includes a rotating panel of guests, featuring analysts, entertainers and sports figures, that debate Smith on a variety of topics.
Hall of Famer Michael Irvin appears on the show every Monday, and Tim Tebow is a weekly guest on Fridays.
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