ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith talked openly about his mother in a recent interview and praised her for the major impact she made on his life and discussed how it affected him when she died in 2017.
Smith talked to OutKick’s Clay Travis about how his family struggled and it helped him learn how to survive and the value of a dollar. He said he looked at his mother with more respect when he learned he was making more than her working at a newspaper than she did raising him and his siblings.
“We struggled tremendously,” Smith said. “We knew how to do without. We knew how to survive but we certainly knew that we were poor … No question about it, we were deprived of a lot of things because of our circumstances. But the respect and admiration for her just elevated amongst all of us because in order to be able to take care of us, there had to be such an incomparable level of selflessness where it was about us and it wasn’t about her.
“She’s the reason that I always came up with a slogan when it came to me and my two daughters and this is if they’re hungry, it’s because I’m starving. I’m not comfortable unless they’re comfortable. I don’t eat unless I know they eat. I’m not living comfortably unless I know they’re OK. They are first. I got that from mom because mom was that way and she mandated that her children be that way as well. And certainly, my four older sisters are definitely that way. And it’s because of her.”
Smith said the holidays are a tough time for him “because she’s gone” and said that working on Mother’s Day is one of the most “miserable” times for him.
And while he was in a dark place in 2017 and the immediate years after her death, Smith said going to therapy really helped him.
“Therapy helped with that,” he told Travis. “I know a lot of us, particularly me as a Black man, don’t like to admit that, but it’s true. I was in therapy for a while after losing my mother because it is the worst feeling that I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve never known that level of misery. I’ve never known that level of emotional non-control.
“I just I would sit on the air, Travis, at times, and I just have to openly confess this, there was literally times I would sit across from someone and I didn’t hear them and I didn’t see them – it was dark. And All I saw was my mom’s casket being lowered into the ground and it was just like the worst feeling in the world.
“And that’s when I knew that I had to go to therapy because it was like, you know, I’m saying things, I’m getting sharp with my tongue, I’m not having the level of compassion that I know that I feel in my heart. There’s so many different things that come with it. I know I’m better than that. But I just I didn’t have control because I was emotionally in turmoil.”
Smith said it was tough going back to work at the time but talked it over with his sisters and they said, “what would mommy say?” And they all agreed their mother would say “finish the job.”
He admitted to nearly breaking down crying on the court in Cleveland but was able to lean on some his colleagues and the NBA world for support during that tough time.