ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith talks sports, leadership

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Sports journalist and ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith gave a lecture for students and staff in the K-State Student Union Ballroom on Thursday night as a part of the 2012 Alpha Lecture Series. Smith was brought in by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to talk about leadership and how to achieve professional success.

Alpha Phi Alpha has brought in prominent speakers in the past, featuring names like former rap artists Ice-T and Rev. Run.

“We wanted to make sure that we brought in someone who the public knew, but at the same time can give a particular message that we really wanted to convey to the community,” said Vuna Adams III, Alpha Phi Alpha president and sophomore in accounting and finance.

Stephen A. Smith is a native of Hollis, Queens. After graduating from Winston-Salem State University, Smith went on to become a beat writer for the Philadelphia 76ers and started working as an NBA columnist in 2001. By March 2003, Smith was promoted to general sports columnist, becoming one of 21 African-Americans in the United States to hold that title.

Members of the K-State student body and staff, including several members of the K-State football and basketball team, attended the lecture.

After warming up the audience with a few thoughts on what is going on in the NBA, Smith continued his lecture. Right off the bat, Smith was able to capture the audience with his distinct New York voice.

“One of the things that they asked me to come here and speak about was leadership, and I think that when you mention the word leadership, everybody assumes that it’s one who leads,” Smith said. “They assume that it is somebody who is marching to their own beat … sometimes the greatest leaders are those who follow, because they knew who to follow.”

Smith started with a strong argument about leadership and gave advice on how people should conduct themselves to be a leader and what it takes to be a successful leader.

Smith compared leadership with friendship and used an interactive exercise to get the audience thinking about whether the person next to them was truly a friend or just another acquaintance.

Getting off the the topic of leadership, Smith introduced the topic of what most audience members knew him from: ESPN.

“My name is Stephen A. Smith, I work for the worldwide leader [in sports journalism],” Smith said. “Everybody can joke and say this ‘self-proclaimed’ worldwide leader, but really. ESPN makes over 20 billion a year. ESPN personifies sports.”

Over the next hour and a half, Smith hit on many different topics. No matter what topic Smith covered, he was always able to relate it back to sports, using examples such as the 2011 NBA lockout, the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program and even the Frank Martin story. His ability to relate personal experiences back to sports and other topics in the news kept the audience alert and fully engaged.

“The lecture followed with all that we’d expected and but even so much more,” Adams said. “He gave so much more insight than just the role to great leadership. He provided real-life examples from a sports world but also from a realistic aspect that we can actually take and apply to the rest of our lives.”

Victor Ojeleye, senior and 2011-12 K-State basketball player, was another student who attended the lecture.

“The thing I will remember most is how Stephen A. Smith gave what he had to help us meet the rising expectations in our futures and sharing his knowledge and his passion for what he does,” Ojeleye said. “He really helped us realize the potential that we can reach and how to close the gap of our reality right now and the future right now.”

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