With its “SC6″ experiment fizzling less than two months ago, ESPN will try something else with “SportsCenter” programs that precede NBA playoff games, giving one of its lightning rod hosts a high profile on the show.

Stephen A. Smith, who offers his views on “First Take” daily and on his daily ESPN Radio show, will host “SportsCenter” at 7 p.m. for weeknight NBA Finals games and will have an expanded presence on the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” show during the conference finals, the network announced Thursday.

“Yes, I am synonymous with ‘First Take,'” he said in an announcement Thursday by the network. But none of my success at ESPN — absolutely nothing — would’ve been possible without ‘SportsCenter.’ It is the ‘SportsCenter’ brand that has made ESPN what we’ve become. To have my name up in lights as HOST during the NBA Finals is unreal. An incredible honor for me. And I plan on making the most of it. Buckle up! Stay Tuned. And don’t miss it.”

Smith has been controversial a number of times and drew a suspension in 2014 for making inflammatory comments about domestic abuse during the NFL’s domestic violence scandal, triggered by the Ray Rice incident. He apologized for those remarks.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith received criticism for his comments about Ayesha Curry’s tweet that the NBA “is absolutely rigged” and comparing her to Savannah James, LeBron James's wife. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

Michael Smith and Jemele Hill took over “SportsCenter,” rebranded “SC6″ in February 2017, but it never clicked with viewers and controversy set in over Hill’s off-camera comments that were critical of President Trump and Cowboy owner Jerry Jones. She was suspended briefly by the network and returned before leaving in January to contribute to ESPN’s The Undefeated. Michael Smith left the show in early March.

The addition of Stephen A. Smith comes at a time when ESPN says its 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” averaged 526,000 viewers in April, a nine-percent rise over its April 2017 number and a four-percent rise over viewership in March. He will be on-site for the 7 p.m. shows for weeknight NBA Finals games leading into “NBA Countdown” at 8 on ESPN and “NBA Countdown” and the game on ABC.

If that sounds like a heavy workload, it is. Not that Stephen A. minds.

“The thing is I just live what I do, it’s not work to me,” he told For the Win earlier this week. “I’m not punching a clock, counting the hours down or what have you. I happen to enjoy what I’m doing. As a matter of fact, the only time I don’t enjoy what I’m doing is when I’m sleeping. If I’m awake, I’m good, it doesn’t matter to me.

“I work for the worldwide leader, I work for ESPN, and you never know when you’re in this business, you tend to want to be successful and you want to be in the public eye and you want all of these different things because you’re synonymous with the worldwide leader.

“My mentality is to live up to working for the worldwide leader and that’s consistently striving to be recognized as one of, if not the very best at what I do because that’s what working for the worldwide leader is supposed to be all about. And so it’s not about me just being on ESPN and being proud of that. It’s about making ESPN proud to have me on their airwaves by going out there and performing to the best of my ability. That’s what I constantly strive to do.”

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