Magic Johnson and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith Come to Wilmington to Promote Historically Black Colleges

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith is the 2019 ambassador of HBCU Week in Wilmington

ESPN is coming to Wilmington, and it’s bringing some Magic with it.

The sports cable network’s morning show, First Take, will broadcast from the 76ers Fieldhouse on Garasches Lane in Wilmington on Friday as part of ESPN’s salute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). One of those HBCU institutions is Delaware State University, and the Hornets will be featured prominently in the broadcasts.

First Take is hosted by Molly Qerim Rose, Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith, a former sports writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer who went to Winston-State University, another HBCU school. Smith is Wilmington’s official HBCU Week ambassador, which takes place all this week.


Smith, a graduate of an HBCU in Winston-Salem, NC, stopped by New York radio station Hot 97 today, where he told announcers that the City of Wilmington invited him to bring attention to the week and “pump it up.” “When they brought it to my attention, I realized, OK, there’s an opportunity to bring attention to HBCUs, it’s an opportunity to help folks from disenfranchised communities.”

Stephen A. Smith is the host of ESPN’s First Take

Special celebrity guest Magic Johnson also to appear at HBCU event

But the big star of the broadcast from the 76ers Fieldhouse will be a long-time 76ers nemesis – Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Hall-of-Famer player who took part in many intense battles with the Sixers when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s not often one of the 10 greatest basketball players in history hangs out in Wilmington.

Former NBA star Magic Johnson will appear as a special guest during Steven A. Smith’s “First Take” live program on Friday in Wilmington.

The broadcast is open to the public and free. Doors open at 7 am, and taping of the show will start at 10 am and conclude at Noon. The City of Wilmington expects around 7,000 people to show up and accommodations will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, so the early birds will get the best seats.

There will also be a college fair of HBCU schools, including Cheyney University, Lincoln University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, Howard University, Benedict College and, of course, Delaware State University.


Fair will include internships and job opportunities

And some local companies will be present to offer internships and post-graduation job opportunities and around 4,000 students are expected to attend – Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki called the college/job fair “the crux of this week-long series of events.”

Last year, more than 1,500 students attended and, according to Purzycki, nearly 700 received college offers. This year, the City is expecting that number to more than double.

“As we increase the number of young people who attend college, we are forever changing young lives and our communities for the better,” Purzycki said. “And we anticipate even more success stories in 2019.”

Interested students should bring copies of their SAT/ACT scores, transcripts and resumes. To register and for other information, including the rest of the schedule for HBCU Week, go to

That schedule is highlighted by the Battle of the Bands, which will be held at Frawley Stadium on Saturday at 3 p.m. and will be hosted by Blake Saunders, featuring DJ Bran. Schools competing include Lincoln University, Winston-Salem State University, Hampton University, North Carolina A&T University and, last but not least, The Approaching Storm from Delaware State University.

Noonan’s take on First Take

First Take – in case you sleep late, have to go to work, or are forced to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Disney Junior – is a typical ESPN talk show. The hosts are opinionated and loud, especially Smith, who is a love-him-or-loathe-him television personality – one local radio guy once dubbed him “Screaming A. Smith because of his spittle-inducing on-air rants.

The commentators on First Take usually discuss the hot topics of the day – again, usually at a high decibel level – and show highlights of recent sporting events. They also have a variety of guests, and Friday’s show will include Johnson and Sixers general manager Elton Brand, a former NBA All-Star who was in charge of the minor-league Wilmington Blue Coats before being promoted to the big-league club last year.

Together, they will honor the HBCU’s past and, more importantly, promote its future.

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About the Contributor

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.