*Stephen A. Smith was a guest on a BIG U x WSHH Presents: CHECC’N-IN, and told the story of how he transitioned from playing basketball at Winston Salem State University, to joining the school newspaper – and how that led to an article so offensive to his former coach that the school wanted him expelled.
“I cracked my kneecap in half my first year,” Smith said, explaining why his basketball dreams had him temporarily sidelined. During his injury timeout, Smith said his mom began asking if he had a plan B in mind for his career.
“I said you know what? They tell me I can write. I’ll be a journalist, because even though I want to do television, my thought at the time [about TV] was, ‘You’re smiling in front of a camera reading the ‘prompter. You ain’t gonna have longevity, because I ain’t a smiler. I ain’t George Foreman or one of those cats. I ain’t just cheesin’ for the camera. That ain’t my style.’ So ultimately I started writing for the school newspaper, while I was still on the team.”
Smith’s coach was the legendary Clarence Edward “Big House” Gaines Sr., who coached at the school for 47 years. Smith, in his new role on the school paper, decided to write an opinion piece about why his coach should retire.
It didn’t go over well with the coach, or the school, to put it mildly. But it set the tone for the type of fearless opinion journalism that would become his signature, and eventually earn him the title of highest paid personality on ESPN.
Watch Smith tell the story below: