“How bad do you want it?” This was the sentiment that resonated throughout a motivational speech from one of ESPN’s leading faces who spoke at the University of Rhode Island.

Stephen A. Smith, co-host of ESPN’s most popular segment “First Take”, came to URI last night at 8 p.m. to talk about his journey to success and to partake in a Q&A session following his discussion.

Credit: Alexander Subers/The Good 5 Cent Cigar
Credit: Alexander Subers/The Good 5 Cent Cigar

When Smith first came on stage, he gave an aside to the audience from his “First Take” co-host, a person that is incredibly popular in his own right. Smith said, “Skip Bayless says hello.”

Smith then proceeded to discuss the common misconception that he and Bayless do not get along.

“Skip Bayless and I have been friends for 19 years,” Smith said. In 2000, Fox was going to make a show featuring the two of them titled, “Sports in Black and White”, but the show was scrapped in the last minute.

“When it comes to First Take (originally titled ‘Cold Pizza’), all the credit goes to Skip,” Smith said. “The only reason I am doing it is because he reached out and asked me to.”

Bayless told Smith that the show would not be able to work without him. The two are very opposite but that contributed to the overall success of the show.

“No matter what your gifts are or how much talent you have you can’t pull it off by yourself,” said Smith. “So many of people’s problems today are based on their inability to come together.”

To prove this, Smith used the New England Patriots, San Antonio Spurs and Floyd Mayweather’s successes. In regards to Mayweather, who Smith predicted to knock out Manny Pacquiao in the 11th round of their bout that will take place on May 2nd, he said, “It ain’t just because he gets up and runs 7 miles at the drop of a hat. It’s not because he spars all the time. It is because of his trainers, his dad, his nutritionists, his masseuse, it’s because of a team.”

Smith, from Queens, New York, learned lessons from the streets he was raised on. Smith said “I don’t condone criminal behavior but I have people, from that life, who saved my life because they wouldn’t let me be a part of it.”

Credit: Alexander Subers/The Good 5 Cent Cigar
Credit: Alexander Subers/The Good 5 Cent Cigar

Smith was held back in the third and fourth grade. Smith said that he had people in his life that would say he never amount to anything in life.

“I remember the name of every one of those bastards that were laughing at me,” said Smith. “I said, ‘You can book it, no one will ever laugh at me again. They went from calling me a dummy to saying I’m too damn smart.”

Smith went on to discuss how he is very well paid and at the top of his field, which is due to his knowledge that someone else out there is gunning for his spot. Smith said, “I put in the work. This isn’t some overnight sensation.”

“In order to be excellent you have to be better than someone else,” said Smith. “In order to be the best you have to love competition… Bring it.”