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Collected Wisdom: Stephen A. Smith, ESPN analyst

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith has become one of the most polarizing figures in sports journalism because of his strong voice — both in volume and in style — across several media platforms.
INTERVIEWED BY GINA MIZELL Published: June 16, 2012

I always knew that I wanted to have the license to express myself, my opinion as opposed to be restricted to just reporting. At the time, that was my greatest achievement, becoming a columnist (for The Philadelphia Inquirer).

I'm not going to sit there and sugarcoat it. If you stink, I'm going to say you stink. I'm not going to say you struggled. If you were awful, I'm not going to say “Well, you know, you just struggled a little.” No. You were awful. It is what it is.

I don't worry about being liked. Nobody wants to be hated, and I certainly don't. But if you do hate me because I choose to tell the truth and I choose to be answerable to my listeners and my viewers and my readers, and that's a problem for you, you're going to have to get over it. Because I'm not changing.

If I had to pick one (moment I covered) that goes above all of them, I was there when (Michael) Jordan crossed over Bryon Russell, pushed off and drilled the jump shot and posed in 1998 to deliver the world championship.

Allen Iverson is always at the top of that list (of favorite interviews). When you get him going, he's not holding back. He's not going to cheat you with his answers. He's going to give it from the heart.

(Being parodied on Saturday Night Live) was nice. I appreciate the moment. It was a lot of fun. But I still have to get up and go to work the next day. I still put on my shoes and my pants just like everybody else. I don't really get caught up in all of that. But it was funny. I will admit that.

I've always prided myself on being multifaceted. I did sports. I did politics. I write. I do radio. I do television. All of those things are true, but at the same time, there comes a time where you have to lock in. For me, what I've been blessed and fortunate about is that I'm working for a company like ESPN that allows me to do all of those things. I don't have to sit back and wonder what I'm missing out on. All I have to do is tell them, “This is what I want to do,” and they usually have the outlet for me to do it.