ESPN has evolved continually since its arrival in 1979. Among those changes is who has carried the unofficial “face of ESPN” title, starting with the energetic, nickname-bestowing Chris Berman. In the mid-1990s, ESPN saw another anchor rise to fame, the softer, more relatable Dan Patrick
Today, the answer is simple: Stephen A. Smith. Since his triumphant return to the company as a daily television personality in 2012, ESPN has used him on Sunday NFL Countdown for the entire 2015 season, College GameDay (basketball) periodically, and is a regular on SportsCenter. Along with, of course, his show, First Take, and as his now nationally distributed radio show.
Here are the 10 most likely candidates to be “the face of ESPN” in 2023. Some things to consider are the age of the talent, predicting where and how they will be featured, and recent trends among others. Some talents that are the faces of their respective sport (Jay Bilas with college basketball, Kirk Herbstreit with college football, and Adrian Wojnarowski with NBA reporting, for example) are not included in the overall list because of the broader focus of others.
10. Mina Kimes
A year ago, Jemele Hill would have surely been on this list. A polarizing 2017, though, makes projecting her status at ESPN in five years a risk. Michelle Beadle would no doubt be on this list based on the present. But if we are projecting someone to emerge in the next five years, it’s Mina Kimes. Sunday mornings have become a treat for sports fans with The Morning Roast. Mina Kimes, Clinton Yates, and Domonique Foxworth are showing why three hosts on a radio show can be brilliant if done correctly. Kimes is also one of the best writers at the company, this was showcased when she was able to getAaron Rodgers to open up in one of the best pieces of the year. As a regular on Around the Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show Kimes has proven she should be next in line to receive a platform of her own. If ESPN was to create an NFL version of The Jump – a personality-driven show about the NFL – it should be Kimes’ show.
9. Dan Le Batard
Dan Le Batard is one of the few people that has shown they can succeed in print, radio, and television. Maybe the most authentic personality at the company, broke down on-air as he heard the news of his friend, ESPN President John Skipper’s decision to step down. Regardless of who does eventually takes over, it is hard to imagine them not being a fan of the former Miami Herald columnist. It bodes wells for Le Batard with the digital landscape becoming more of a primary focus, as his radio show is always near the top-consumed podcasts for ESPN. Whether his often satirical style will ever be pushed to the very top, it is safe to assume he will at least be one of their primary talents over the next five years.
8. Adam Schefter
It is much more of a challenge for a news breaker to carry the reigns as opposed to a personality that makes their own news daily. However, Adam Schefter is the top news breaker for the top sport in the country. His Twitter account has over 7 million followers, significantly more than anyone else at the company. He has recently inserted himself into the NBA coverage as well, working the sidelines at select games. His podcast, Know Them Adam, has also shown off his ability to do other things besides his greatest strength — breaking news. Unlike his closest competitor, Ian Rapoport, when Schefter reports a story, it is not questioned. He too can get fiery:
7. Rachel Nichols
Since returning to ESPN in 2015, Rachel Nichols has been nothing short of sensational. Her daily NBA show, The Jump, has been able to hold impressive ratings even during the months that have been historically dominated by the NFL. In a time where television ratings are falling literally everywhere, the NBA happens to be going in the other direction. Within the next five years, it would not be out of the question for the company’s primary NBA show, and arguably primary NBA personality, to become a larger priority. Digitally, nearly every segment of the show is converted to YouTube on the same day, something that is not done for most studio shows.
6. Jalen Rose
ESPN has been notorious for bringing on former athletes and giving them a voice, but mostly these former athletes have been hard to separate. They often become part of a rotation and none really stick out above the rest. Jalen Rose, however, has become much more than that over the past two years. Even post-Simmons, he has been used essentially all over the network. Last year, he was part of each edition of NBA Countdown after Magic Johnson took a front-office job with the Lakers (it remains uncertain this year as the Saturday and Sunday editions are yet to air). He was given a nightly radio show with David Jacoby that is now being turned into a podcast, with a television version airing on ESPN2. Along with his SportsCenter hits, Rose will be one of the three main personalities on ESPN’s new morning show set to debut April 2. The future looks bright for the former “Fab Five” member.