Stephen Smith May Become ESPN’s Highest Paid Talent: Report

By Zachary Stieber

ESPN analyst Stephen Smith may become the network’s highest paid talent, according to a new report.

Smith, a brash personality who appears on a range of shows on the network and is featured on “First Take” as well as hosting his own national radio show, is reportedly valued by a number of executives at ESPN.

People with knowledge of the contract negotiations between Smith and ESPN told the New York Post that Smith could get his salary boosted to as high as $10 million a year.

Executives and agents told the Post that Smith would likely get at least $8 million a year.

Smith’s current contract reportedly pays him around $5 million a year and runs for two more years, until June 2021.

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Stephen A. Smith at the Paley Prize Gala honoring ESPN’s 35th anniversary presented by Roc Nation Sports in New York City, on May 28, 2014. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Paley Center for Media)
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ESPN host Michael Wilbon at ESPN The Party in San Francisco, Calif., on Feb. 5, 2016. (Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
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A view of the logo during ESPN The Party in San Francisco, Calif., on Feb. 5, 2016. (Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)

The current high salary at ESPN is Mike Greenburg’s $6.5 million a year for hosting “Get Up!” Longtime “Pardon the Interruption” hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon are believed to be making close to that figure.

Sources told the Post that Smith, a native of New York City, is well-liked by top executives at ESPN because he’s always willing to go on air while other top personalities at the network have sometimes complained if they feel they’re getting too much exposure.

According to the blog Celebrity Net Worth, Smith currently has a net worth of $14 million.

Smith, 51, began his career in 1993 as a sportswriter for New York’s The Daily News and later became a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Smith has not addressed the rumored potential salary bump publicly.

Smith Calls Duke Season ‘a Failure’

Smith recently provided his take on Duke’s loss in the 2019 NCAA Tournament to Michigan State, calling the overall 1-seed’s defeat in the Elite Eight a big disappointment.

“The season was a failure. I know that’s not popular to say because people want to look at kids and we certainly want to be nice about the fact that they’re college kids and not pros. We get all of that,” Smith said during “First Take” on April 1.

Smith said that Zion Williamson, widely expected to be the top overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, did well but was failed by coach Mike Krzyzewski.

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R.J. Barrett (L), Zion Williamson (C), and head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils speak to the media after their team’s 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena in Washington, on March 31, 2019. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

“But listen, Zion didn’t fail,” Smith continued. “There’s but so much more he could do. He showed up and showed out—even though, inexplicably, I think he took like one shot in the last two minutes and certainly he didn’t take the last shot when it counted most. I’m looking at coach K for something like that.”

Smith said that with Williamson and other talented players like R.J. Barrett, Duke should have made it to the Final Four at the very least.

“You aren’t going to Duke for conference championships,” he said. “The disappointment is so palpable that I can use the word failure.”