Before he rose to media mega-stardom as the face of ESPN, Stephen A. Smith was a budding hoops talent good enough to warrant scholarship status at Division II Winston-Salem State. That’s as far as Smith’s basketball career would take him—any hopes of playing professionally went out the window once he cracked his kneecap. But even if Smith never amounted to much on the hardwood (his college stats are nowhere to be found), it all worked out for the best, as his seven-figure annual salary would attest.
Stephen A.’s long-forgotten college hoops career was brought to the internet’s attention Thursday thanks to the tongue-in-cheek Twitter account, Random College Athletes (which surprisingly boasts nearly 40,000 followers).
Social media seemed to revel in this discovery, basking in the novelty of seeing Smith, best-known for his fiery rants (most of them directed at his First Take co-host/sparring partner Max Kellerman) on topics like LeBron James and the Dallas Cowboys, as a college athlete in the late 80s. Many commenters suggested doppelgangers for the 6’1” guard, noting his resemblance to Wilt Chamberlain, Celtics guard Jeff Teague and famed rapper Ludacris, among others.
Even retired NBA star Dwyane Wade got in on the fun, teasing Stephen A. for his unremarkable stint as a Winston-Salem Ram.
A nostalgic Stephen A. responded to Wade’s jab in unusually self-deprecating fashion, making light of his marginal hoops pedigree while also acknowledging his receding hairline.
Based on some of the clips we’ve seen of Smith’s broken jumper, trading in his high-tops for a camera and a microphone was probably the right call.