ESPN pundit Skip Bayless got emotional Tuesday, but it was not the result of one of his patented debates with "First Take" co-host Stephen A. Smith.
Tuesday was Bayless' last day with ESPN, the network he had called home for more than two decades, before moving on to the Fox Sports Network. Bayless is best known for the morning show "First Take," where he gained notoriety for his against-the-grain opinions and passionate debate. So it was appropriate that his heartfelt goodbye to the network came during the opening of that show Tuesday.
"Man, it is actually here — my last day on ESPN before I move on to my next endeavor. This is my last day at this debate desk in this studio after nearly 12 years on this show and 23 years on various shows on this network," a choked-up Bayless said. "On this show I've gone from that crazy Woody Paige in New York City to my man right here, Stephen A. Smith, in Bristol, Connecticut."
Bayless saved his most tender comments for the co-host he has spent the past few years battling with every morning.
"[Smith] is here today for me, and I love him for that. We've had our battles on this show, we fight like brothers, we get mad, we love each other. I am going to miss him more than he has any concept," Bayless said. "We have had a great run against all odds on this show, and I'm so proud of what we built here."
Bayless is known for his controversial sports opinions, whether championing the Dallas Cowboys and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow or critiquing NBA great Lebron James. Those opinions often drew the ire of fans, but they also drew ratings, helping to make "First Take," formerly "Cold Pizza," a successful franchise for ESPN.
Bayless was true to his brand until his last day at ESPN. Bayless tweeted Monday that his favorite NBA team, the San Antonio Spurs, would have beaten Lebron James' Cleveland Cavaliers, who won the NBA championship Sunday, if the two teams had met in the finals. The opinion enraged fans on social media who felt Bayless had once again disrespected James. In the wake of Bayless' last day, even some ESPN employees took shots at the polarizing pundit.
The criticism, though, seems to again be rolling off Bayless' back. The analyst said on "First Take" Tuesday that he had never lost a debate in all his years on the show.