ESPN’s Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith were close to being TV partners in the morning and radio rivals in the afternoon, which would have made a very interesting daily dynamic.
WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM in New York and ESPN have long been sports media rivals with The Worldwide Leader refusing to let any of their talent appear on WFAN. It’s hard to imagine a world where one of ESPN’s most recognizable personalities would host afternoon drive on the opposing WFAN, but it was a possibility. During WFAN’s 2017 search to replace Mike Francesa when he “retired,” the station was interested in hiring First Take host Max Kellerman with an agreement that could have allowed him to continue his ESPN gig.
In a story about Chris Simms departing Bleacher Report for NBC, the former NFL quarterback told The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand he was offered the opportunity to replace Mike Francesa. Simms’ decision to decline the offer was in part because he didn’t want to be on a three-person show and instead had his sights on a different radio partner.
According to Marchand, the preferred co-host for Simms was ESPN’s Max Kellerman. The ESPN personality reportedly has language in his contract that allows him to host a drive time radio show in New York while continuing to his role on First Take, even if that show is on their rival WFAN.
The available 2 – 6 timeslot on WFAN would have put Kellerman and his TV co-host Stephen A. Smith head to head for an hour in New York, with Smith’s syndicated radio show broadcasting on 98.7 ESPN from 1 – 3pm. Kellerman and Stephen A. would be spending their mornings working together to build an audience and their afternoons competing with each other for an audience.
It also would have been interesting to see if ESPN continued to refuse their talent the opportunity to appear on WFAN. After decades at the network, Kellerman has built strong relationships at ESPN and it’s difficult to imagine his close friends not joining him for segments on WFAN.
In the end a Kellerman and Simms pairing never came to fruition. WFAN chose Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott and Francesa’s retirement was short lived, but an afternoon drive intersection for ESPN and WFAN would have been fun to watch.