Stephen A. Smith is about to get paid – big time.
Smith, a former intern at the Winston-Salem Journal, got his start in the media business during his days as a student at Winston-Salem State in the early 1990s.
According to the New York Post, Smith is about to sign a contract extension with ESPN for $10 million a year.
That’s a lot of cash for a former WSSU basketball player who showed up from Queens, New York with an injured knee.
Smith said a few years ago that Big House Gaines, who was Smith’s coach at WSSU, had a standing joke about Smith’s bum knee. ‘Coach would always say ‘in Kentucky we shoot horses that are lame,’” Smith said.
Smith, who graduated in 1991, has come a long way from his days of working at the Winston-Salem Journal.
According to the report from the New York Post, Smith, 51, would become the highest-paid personality in sports media.
I’ve talked to Smith on several occasions through the years, including two years ago when the CIAA inducted him into the John B. McLendon Hall of Fame. He was generally touched by the honor and made sure to tell folks that he wasn’t going into the hall of fame for his time on the basketball court.
Smith’s message to me in just about every interview has been about giving back to his university. It’s a message he got loud and clear from Gaines, who always told his players ‘the world doesn’t owe you anything.’
Smith has worked hard during his time as a newspaper reporter who transitioned nicely into television.
A couple of years ago Smith pledged $250,000 to WSSU’s communications and athletics department over a three-year period.
In the most recent fund-raiser for WSSU athletics, Smith has contributed with a $25,000 pledge.
Athletics is trying to raise $250,000 by the summer and the amount is up to just over $42,000.
Chris Paul’s foundation has also contributed and it’s rumored to be in the $50,000 range. Paul, an NBA star with the Houston Rockets, went to Wake Forest but his parents, Robin and Charles, attended WSSU. Paul’s parents didn’t meet at WSSU, but met in church when they were teenagers.
Smith said his time at WSSU shaped him, and he’s always talking about the need for HBCU’s.
Three years ago he told me about his time at WSSU and loved every minute of it even if he didn’t play that much because of a cracked kneecap.
“I tried to play for Coach Gaines, I just couldn’t after I got hurt,” he said in 2016. “I can’t say enough about that school and what it did for me and especially the late Coach Gaines and all of those professors of mine.”
After working at the Journal as a part-timer in the sports department he graduated from WSSU, then worked for the Greensboro News & Record’s High Point bureau where he lived in Archdale and said he made $15,000 a year.
“I lived in a small place and survived on tuna fish and Kool-Aid,” he told me in Jan. of 2016.
Smith can afford now to buy all the tuna fish and Kool-Aid he wants.
Here is a story from January, 2016 when Smith was coming to be a main speaker at a WSSU athletics fundraiser. https://www.journalnow.com/sports/wssu/stephen-a-smith-who-knows-where-i-d-be/article_23f1df87-126f-57b0-9230-bcfc50b8139d.html