Stephen A. Smith and Jamie Horowitz Reunite For NBA Finals MegaCast

The success of The ManningCast continues to impact the rest of live sports television.

Buoyed by the success of the Emmy-Award Winning ESPN2 show helmed by Peyton and Eli Manning, The Worldwide Leader in Sports is having Stephen A. Smith host an NBA MegaCast tonight for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. This past October it was announced that ESPN would be testing the NBA version of the ManningCast with Stephen A as the host, and it apparently has been successful enough that ESPN is trying it for the NBA Finals.

The NBA version of the show is co-executive produced by Manning’s Omaha Productions and Smith’s company, SAS Productions, which makes it a reunion of sorts for Stephen A. Smith as he again teams up with sports executive Jamie Horowitz, who now helps guide Omaha Productions.

Smith and Horowitz first worked together in 2012 when they helped drive a massive rise in ratings for the ESPN2 daily show, First Take. Stephen A. Smith wrote at length about this part of his career in his recently released memoir, Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes. In the book, Smith details how his show Quite Frankly was canceled in 2007 and that he was soon out at ESPN altogether. He credits Jamie Horowitz, then an executive at ESPN, with helping reignite his career and setting in motion a sequence of events that allowed him to ultimately become one of the highest-paid personalities at ESPN. 

Jim Miller, author of “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” said: “Stephen A. Smith engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in ESPN history. He was out the door. He was in Siberia.”

It’s hard to imagine now, but in 2009 Smith was sent to the sidelines by ESPN, and many believed he would never work at ESPN again. In his memoir, Smith admits he was a young and ambitious sports media personality and that prior to Horowitz hiring him to come back to ESPN as a co-host of First Take, he was worried that his career would never recover from his embarrassing ESPN exit. Smith wrote that, among a very small group, it was Horowitz who said Smith deserved another chance at ESPN.

First Take would be the gig that turned Smith into one of the most popular sports personalities in sports media. And Smith credits Horowitz – who at the time had just launched SportsNation with Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle – for having his back and helping him focus on what fans wanted most.

“He wanted us to come across as guys enjoying ourselves while jostling with each other,” Smith wrote. 

That same formula – having fun while still being smart – has been a key ingredient for The ManningCast, where Peyton and Eli pick on each other – like brothers! – while discussing everything they see on the field. Smith has tried to follow that formula in his megacasts.

Smith also wanted to repeat the successful strategy the Mannings employed by having signature guests who love the game being televised. During the past two seasons, the Mannings have booked everyone from President Obama to Dana White. During this past NBA regular season, Smith had some fun moments and big names:

October 26, 2022: New York Nets vs Milwaukee Bucks

  1. Eli Manning
  2. Jay Pharoah 
  3. Winston Duke
  4. In-studio: Jalen Rose, Mike Wilbon, Kendrick Perkins

December 2, 2022: Los Angeles Lakers vs vs Milwaukee Bucks

  1. Omar J Dorsey
  2. Duff Goldman
  3. Pat McAfee
  4. In-studio: Jalen Rose, Mike Wilbon, Kendrick Perkins

December 25, 2022: Philadelphia 76ers vs New York Knicks

  1. Spike Lee
  2. Roy Wood Jr
  3. Fat Joe
  4. Boban
  5. Lil Rel Howery
  6. ESPN/In-Studio: Jalen, WIlbon, Perk

April 12, 2023: Chicago Bulls vs Toronto Raptors 

  1. Damian Lillard
  2. Mikal Bridges
  3. John Collins
  4. Snoop Dogg
  5. Bill Bellamy 

April 15, 2023: Brooklyn Nets vs Philadelphia 76ers

  1. Odell Beckham Jr
  2. The Miz
  3. CJ McCollum
  4. Doris Burke
  5. Nick Cannon
  6. Lil Rel Howery

May 5, 2023: Denver Nuggets vs Phoenix Suns

  1. Desmond Bane
  2. Lil Dicky
  3. Charles Barkley 
  4. DeMar DeRozan
  5. Boris Kodjoe

May 16, 2023: Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Lakers 

  1. Draymond Green
  2. TI 
  3. Druski
  4. Paolo Banchero
  5. Omari Hardwick

The Stephen A megacast, is the latest in a series of so-called “alterna-casts” ESPN has developed since the ManningCast debuted in 2021. Those efforts, the bulk produced by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions, have helped reimagine how alternate telecasts are produced. Tonight we will find out if they can work during the NBA Finals.


Article Editor

Pamela is a television journalist, humor writer and novelist. Her first novel, Allegedly, was released in 2015 by St. Martin’s Press. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She and her husband, Daniel, have a 3-year-old son, Carter.

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