For over a decade, Stephen A. Smith has been recognized as one of the faces of ESPN.

Before becoming a host on “First Take,” the veteran sports broadcaster hosted “The Stephen A. Smith Show” on ESPN Radio from 2005 to 2008, per ESPN Press Room. By 2011, Smith returned to host a weekday local show on ESPN Radio 98.7FM in New York, NY, and a local show on ESPN LA 710AM in Los Angeles, CA.

In an interview with “Earn Your Leisure” podcast, Smith recounted being fired from ESPN in 2009. He explained that the reason for his departure was that his contract at the time did not align with what he believed he should earn.

“I thought that I deserved more than they offered,” Smith shared on “Earn Your Leisure. “I was appalled at the offer they made me. I did not like it. I did not appreciate it. I felt disrespected. And I said ‘No.’”

Smith admitted that his disapproval with the offer he received was based on the acclaim and accolades that were pouring in for him. However, he says when he reflects now, he sees he wasn’t in his prime just yet.

“All I had was radio, which was expendable, and SportsCenter appearances,” he said. “You didn’t have a definitive place where you knew to catch me. So what did they do under the old regime? They sign me to a contract in 2008. They give me $600,000 less than what I had turned down and less than what their initial offer was. Then, on top of it all, they kept me off of the air. All of a sudden, y’all didn’t see me. You didn’t hear me.”

The series of events led to him losing leverage and having no new contract in 2009, and he was no longer allowed on SportsCenter. For 10 and a half months, Smith says he was unemployed and living off his savings. He recalled it as a scary time, especially since he was also a new father.

Through the experience he focused on learning the ins and outs of the business instead of paying attention to his popularity. When given a second chance with ESPN, he was able to come in with the dollar value his ratings brought in to back up his renegotiations.

From the looks of Smith’s reported earnings, the renegotiating skills he built paid off — literally. As previously shared by AFROTECH™, he reportedly earns a salary of $12 million including an $8 million yearly salary and a $4 million-per-year production contract. What’s more, the deal he inked with ESPN in 2019 is said to have made him the highest-paid ESPN personality with a $20 million net worth to match, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

While Smith says his current contract ends in June 2025, he expressed what he ultimately sees himself doing for the remainder of his career.

“I want to position myself to stay the best. To be as profitable as I can possibly be. And to be not just a revenue generator, but a revenue sharer.”