Smith was said to be a big supporter of getting Bayless back on board, and negotiations lasted months. ESPN reportedly offered Bayless a four-year, $30 million contract in August, although different sources have claimed the figure was as low as $26.5 million and as high as $31 million.
The duo, who worked alongside each other on ESPN’s First Take until Bayless’ departure in 2016, were reportedly in talks to do a daily ESPN+ show together. Bayless would have also appeared on different shows, sometimes with Smith, such as Monday Night Football. The idea was that by having the two together on multiple shows on ESPN, it would encourage viewers to subscribe to ESPN+ to see their show together.
Despite the efforts to reunite them, negotiations fell through, leading to Bayless’ new four-year, $32 million deal with Fox Sports.
“Stephen A Smith is even more of a brother to me than my real brother,” Bayless said in a statement shared with the New York Post. “I love the man, as you know, on and off the air. Since I left ‘First Take’ for ‘Undisputed’ back in June of 2016, Stephen A. and I have remained in close touch.”
From 2012 to 2016, Smith and Bayless co-hosted First Take and became a favorite among sports fans for their chemistry. In 2016, Bayless signed a four-year contract with Fox Sports , and he’s been with the network ever since.