Dissecting the Education that Set Stephen A Smith Up for His Huge Salary and Net Worth

If there is one person that can easily influence the opinion of sports fans in America, it is Stephen A Smith. The longtime ESPN sports journalist, who is known for his provocative analysis and aggressive delivery, made a name for himself by appearing alongside commentator Skip Bayless on ESPN’s First Take program. He has since moved on to host the sports talk show with Max Kellerman as he further contributes to various other ESPN programs. Before becoming a sports television personality, Smith started out in print media with the Winston-Salem Journal. He then later worked with the Greensboro News-Record, New York Daily News, and The Philadelphia Inquirer before launching his own website. He has had an obvious steady rise in his career and is now ESPN’s highest-paid sports journalist.

Stephen A Smith Attended A Couple of Tertiary Institutions

For a career like journalism, a college degree is usually required to even get one’s foot at the door and ESPN’s Stephen A Smith is well-armed with one. Born in the Bronx borough of New York City but raised in the Hollis section of Queens, Smith for his high school education attended Thomas Edison High School. After graduating around the mid-1980s, Smith proceeded to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, New York City.

Following a year at the institute, Smith received a basketball scholarship to attend Winston-Salem State University. This would mean that Smith was more than an average basketball player in high school, however, his high school basketball stats have not been made public. He did continue to play basketball at the historically black university. He had the opportunity of being coached by the well-decorated Clarence Gaines who would become a Hall of Famer. In 1999, Smith earned his bachelor of arts degree in mass communication.

Rather than go on to chase basketball professionally, Smith had other interests that he was obviously better at than basketball. He loved the world of journalism and decided to pursue his love for sports from that angle. He had begun writing a column for his college newspaper which is called The News Argust.

A Recap of Institutions that Stephen A Smith Attended 

  • Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School (Graduated in the mid-1980s)
  • Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, New York City (1987)
  • Winston-Salem State University (1988 – 1991 B.A Mass Communications/Media Studies)

Smith Began His Journalism Career In Print Media

Stephen A Smith cut his teeth in the world of sportscasting working in print for the Winston-Salem Journal, a year later he went on to work for North Carolina’s Greensboro News and Record, before landing at the New York Daily News in 1993 to serve as a high school sports reporter, a role he had for just a year.

The first breakthrough of Smith’s career came in 1994 when he was employed by The Philadelphia Inquirer as a sports writer. He first covered Temple Basketball and Football before becoming the back-up NBA writer and then NBA columnist for the 76ers in 2002, before getting promoted to a general sports columnist in March 2003.

While his career at the Philadelphia Inquirer flourished, Smith got to work for other big media outfits; for two years, ending in 2001, he served as an NBA Analyst/Insider for CNN. The job gave him an opportunity to appear on TV. After leaving CNN, he then joined Fox Sports first as an NBA Analyst/Insider. In 2005, he transitioned to the world of radio and from then on juggled between writing, radio, and television. He left the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2010, a 15-year stint that included him being demoted and later relieved of his duties due to his controversial political comments before being called back after winning an arbitrator’s ruling.

His Salary At ESPN Is The Greatest Contributor to His $16 Million Net Worth

Stephen A Smith
Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless

The ESPN came knocking on Stephen A Smith’s door in 2003 and their working relationship has since lasted to date. He was hired primarily as a columnist for ESPN.com and to work on “NBA Shootaround” live from Times Square in NYC every Friday night, along with being a contributor to “Sportscenter.”

His rising popularity in the sports journalism world then led him to his own ESPN radio show, “The Stephen A. Smith Show” which ran for three years from 2005 to 2008, around the same time, Smith was also on TV with the ESPN2 show, Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith.

Smith’s relationship with ESPN has experienced a couple of glitches, first was in 2009 when he had announced he was leaving because he had decided on a different direction from the network. However, he did return in February 2011 to work on ESPN radio, and about a year later in the summer of 2013, he was made one of the co-hosts of ESPN’s highly rated program First Take. Almost a year later, Smith’s relationship with ESPN nearly came to a sour end, this was after he was suspended in mid-2014 for controversial remarks he made on First Take saying that women may provoke domestic abuse.

Fortunately, 2014 ended on a good note for Smith as he signed a multi-year deal with ESPN which brought his salary to $3 million annually, making him one of the highest-paid sportspersons at the network. His salary would later rise to $5 million per year before a deal he signed in April 2019 raised it to $8 million per annum, $1.5 million more than what Mike Greenberg the previous highest-paid ESPN journalist was earning, per New York Post.

At $8 million per year, Stephen A Smith is the highest-paid ESPN sportscaster, he was also the highest-paid sportscaster in America at the time before he was beaten to the title by Tony Romo who signed a humungous $17 million per year deal with CBS in March 2020.

Before Smith put pen to paper on the new deal, word got out that the new deal could pay him $10 million a year, after which critics said that Smith did not deserve the raise as it would make him paid far higher than his colleagues. Smith responded to his critics explaining why he was worth every penny.

Again, Stephen A Smith’s $8 million salary became a subject of controversy in late 2020 during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. ESPN, like most businesses, was badly affected by the pandemic and as a result, decided to lay off some of their staff. This did not sit well with a certain Twitter user who posted his opinion that huge salaries earned by the likes of Smith were why the network was letting better talents go. In typical fashion, Smith clapped back at the user saying that his $8 million salary was justified as he was generating income for the network which helps the network keep jobs.

Outside of the sports world, Stephen A Smith has dabbled into acting. He made his acting debut in a cameo appearance as a television reporter in a February 2007 episode of the soap opera General Hospital. He has since returned to the show in the late 2010s to play the character, Brick. Also in 2007, Smith played the role of Allan in Chris Rock’s I Think I Love My Wife.

Linda Nwadigwe
Linda is a graduate of English and literary studies with over 6 years experience in Journalism and online media. You'll often find her labouring over publishing the most grammatically correct version of a piece of article. To unwind, She enjoys reading a book, scribbling something creative or just getting a beauty sleep. Outside all of that, you'll find her glued to a food channel
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