Skip Bayless And The Historic Yet Predictable Fall Of "Undisputed"

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Profile of ESPN Personality Skip Bayless
BRISTOL, CT - AUGUST 30: Sports journalist and television personality, Skip Bayless prepares for First Take, ESPN2's daily sports talk show, on Friday morning, August 30, 2013. Bayless participates in debate with Stephen A. Smith as he does everyday, during their two hour morning program from 10am - noon. (Photo by Christopher Capozziello/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Skip should have never poked the bear with Shannon Sharpe.

Skip Bayless rose through the ESPN ranks in impression fashion throughout the mid-2000s. Overall, he made his mark with the show Cold Pizza. This would act as a precursor to the morning debate show format we know today. Although Bayless was a success at ESPN, it wasn't until he linked up with Stephen A. Smith on First Take that he became a real sensation. Both of these men became superstars at the network, with Smith being seen as the reasonable one. As for Bayless, he was known as a tried and true hater who would say anything, even if he didn't believe it. If something fit his narrative, he would run with it. This was especially true as it pertains to LeBron James, whom he is still perversely critical of.

Eventually, Bayless left First Take in 2016 to pursue a role at FS1. The network was trying to build its sports programming, and Bayless was going to be their cash cow. He created the show Undisputed and hired Shannon Sharpe as his right-hand man. It was the perfect marriage as you could tell the two had phenomenal on-camera chemistry. With Sharpe's hilarious personality and wealth of experience as a professional athlete, he was the perfect person to subdue Bayless' cantankerous energy. This was the case for almost seven years, as Bayless and Sharpe combined for some truly hilarious moments. In fact, for a while, Undisputed was seen as the superior draw to First Take. Max Kellerman and Stephen A. were mediocre at best together, and the ratings reflected that. FS1 was slowly but surely creeping up on ESPN's empire.

Skip Vs. Shannon

Things were looking good. Sharpe was a sports media darling, and Skip was cementing himself as a legend of the industry. Sure, he has never been agreeable, but that is the huge selling point with Bayless. Unfortunately, he eventually let that aforementioned cantankerous energy get in the way of a good thing. After years of being cordial with Sharpe, Skip decided to undo seven years of goodwill with one bad show. During a debate about Tom Brady no longer being a good quarterback, Skip told Shannon that he was just jealous of Tom for being a better player than him. When Sharpe raised his voice in disbelief, Skip told him to put his glasses back on which in retrospect, felt like Skip pressing the red button Drake loves to talk about so much.

Shannon Sharpe Thanks Skip Bayless On His Last Day

In the weeks and months following that broadcast, it was becoming clear that Skip and Shannon no longer liked each other. They could barely look each other in the eyes, and it the audience could tell things were getting tense. Consequently, it was absolutely no surprise when Shannon revealed that he would be leaving the show. In June of last year, Sharpe had his final broadcast with Undisputed and it was here where he delivered a lengthy monologue, thanking Bayless for giving him the opportunity. It was a classy gesture on Sharpe's part that fans felt was unnecessary given the fact that Bayless wouldn't have extended the same courtesy.

Once Sharpe left Undisputed, the show went on a hiatus as they looked for a new co-host. Meanwhile, Sharpe was being approached by everyone. After all, he's an incredible talent, and media companies knew good and well that Skip had made a huge mistake. In the end, Sharpe opted to sign on with Stephen A. Smith and First Take for a two-days-per-week contract. This would allow Sharpe to stay on TV while also having the time to work on Club Shay Shay. In fact, things have worked out so well for him in this regard, that he now has one of the most viewed interviews in the history of YouTube, thanks to Katt Williams. Had it not been for Bayless' bruised ego and misplaced pride, that may have never happened.

Shannon And Stephen A. Have Taken Skip's Spotlight

Sharpe and Smith hit the ground running on First Take. Their chemistry was immediately apparent, although fans did note that the debates weren't as heated as they were on Undisputed. However, the reasoning for that was quite simple. Sharpe and Smith simply have too much respect for one another to let things get out of hand. That said, they have enough chemistry to always keep things humorous, no matter what the nature of the debate is.

Eventually, Undisputed came back with Keyshawn Johnson, Michael Irvin, Richard Sherman, and Rachel Nichols. During the first show back, it was impossible for Skip to get a word in edge-wise. Sherman and Johnson dominated the conversation, while Bayless was neutralized. Fans were not amused with the panel dynamic, and things never really got any better. After that first week wore off, viewers stopped watching and moved on to First Take. If you don't believe me, just check the numbers. According to Awful Announcing, Undisputed had an average of just under 50K viewers during the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, in December, First Take was averaging over 600K viewers, according to the ESPN Press Room. That means First Take has been outpacing Undisputed by at least a multiple of 10.

Skip And Paul Pierce Don't Move The Needle

In the last month or so, Undisputed has brought on Paul Pierce for the NBA Playoffs. Unfortunately, the ratings have not gotten any better with him on the show. At the end of the day, fans have already decided where their allegiances lie. Furthermore, Pierce was never a media personality that fans took a liking to. While he was on ESPN, he was frequently clowned for having bad takes. Not to mention, he didn't have a particularly positive view of guys like LeBron, which pretty well annihilates any chance of him and Skip having real debates. If anyone was going to save Undisputed from the depths of ratings hell, it was not going to be Pierce. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who could do it.

For years, Skip Bayless built up a rapport with Sharpe, only to destroy it in a few quick seconds. It was like watching the captain of the Titanic steer his ship into the iceberg even though they were already on a safe trajectory. Like watching a man punch himself in the face over and over again for no good reason. Bayless completely tanked his show, and it did not have to be this way. Had he just stayed the course, things would be fine right now. Instead, Sharpe left and proved that he was the one keeping things afloat. Meanwhile, Bayless remains a curmudgeon whose star has faded to the point of parody. He has gone from being a legendary talent evaluator and provocateur to just another guy on sports talk television. It's been a long fall from the top, and Bayless is barely keeping his head above water. It's unfortunate, but after his falling out with Sharpe, it was extremely predictable.

What's Next?

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: TV sports commentators Skip Bayless (L) and Shannon Sharpe attends the 2016 IAVA Heroes Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on November 10, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

So now what? Well, Skip Bayless is currently 72 years old. Moreover, in 2021, he signed a four-year deal with FS1 at $8 million per year. If you do the math, that means his contract is up next year. By then, he will be approaching his mid-70s. At that point, retirement should be the number one thing on his mind. Unless there is a massive shift in the media landscape, Undisputed is not getting back to its old numbers. Not to mention, fans can kiss a Stephen A. Smith reunion goodbye now that Shannon is over at ESPN.

After such an electric career that saw numerous iconic moments, Bayless' career is destined to go out with a whimper. It could have been avoided, but when you have an overinflated sense of self, these things are bound to happen.

About The Author
Alexander Cole is the current Managing Editor of HotNewHipHop. He started at HotNewHipHop back in 2018 where he began as a Sports and Sneakers writer. During this time, he has shown an expertise in Air Jordans, Yeezys, and all things that have to do with Nike. His favorite kicks are the Air Jordan 1 High OG, the Air Jordan 4, the Air Jordan 6, and the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 in the "Beluga 2.0" colorway. Although his collection might not be the biggest, he is always looking to add new styles to it. When it comes to sports, Alex has a particular interest in the NBA and the NFL. His favorite teams are anywhere LeBron goes, and the Kansas City Chiefs. As a Montrealer, the Montreal Canadiens hold a special place in his heart, even if they haven't won the Stanley Cup in his lifetime. Alex also works for the Concordia Stingers, where he provides play-by-play and color commentary for the football, hockey, and basketball teams His favorite hip-hop artists are Kendrick Lamar, Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, and Lil Uzi Vert.