Who's Next For 'Undisputed'?

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Shannon Sharpe was the perfect counterbalance for Skip Bayless on Undisputed. That's not an endorsement of the show or what it aims to be by any stretch, but the duo had real chemistry, real tension, and Sharpe was uniquely suited to hold his own against a firehose of Baylessian spray. Identifying and developing the talent Sharpe has but had never honed before his FS1 run is one of the more impressive things Skip has done in recent years. But emotional goodbyes and thank-yous have been doled out and Undisputed needs a new voice. Bayless needs a partner he can work with in order to stay relevant.

This is an especially intriguing story because jobs like this and microphones this size don't grow on trees. The visibility is great if you can learn to exist in that pressurized clubhouse. Whoever succeeds Sharpe will have the chance to grow their own star by a great magnitude.

It's also intriguing because Fox Sports has a very difficult choice. Earlier this month we floated five potential replacements from within the channel. Obviously, pulling someone off another show and into an early-morning Los Angeles studio is going to have a ripple effect and that impact can't hurt another timeslot too significantly.

Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reported that LeSean McCoy had emerged as an early contender, along with his Speak co-stars Joy Taylor and Emmanuel Acho. Then there's Nick Wright, who's emerged as one of the strongest voices in the space. Wildcard choices like Max Kellerman and Keyshawn Johnson are still in play, but it seems most likely that Fox would look in-house.

Based on vibes and nothing more, McCoy feels like the favorite. His recent tweets have only fueled speculation that he's the been tapped. He checks the box of being a former football player and is certainly not afraid to say some wild things. The only problem — and it's a big one — is that his content leaves quite a bit to be desired unless you want to hear that Dak Prescott is "ass." There could be some trepidation that Bayless will run all over him. Say what you want about Skip but we believe that he does care about the quality of the debate and discourse and he'll have a good amount of input in the decision.

Wright wouldn't have this issue yet such a seismic shift would mean a cross-country move and First Things First losing its No. 1 scoring option. Taylor would also be dynamic but then Speak loses its point guard.

Which leaves Acho as the most exciting candidate. If it feels like he's been training for this moment his whole media life, it's because he has. There is no doubt in our minds that he could hold his own with Bayless and would be the best performer on what is largely a performative stage. It could be really good but on the other hand it could be too broad. In short, there are great risks and great rewards. It's what we want to see but we're not confident that the direction the decision-makers will go.

Undisputed is currently off for an indeterminate amount of time. Bayless tweeted that it would return soon. Shows of this ilk routinely take a few weeks off in the summer post-NBA Finals when the sports calendar gets a little light. If you read between the lines, it's seems safe to say that we won't know who will succeed Sharpe anytime soon.

NBA free agency begins on June 30 and is the last big sports pop before training camp begins in earnest. If Undisputed returns to talk Bradley Beal and Dame Lillard, is that really the best initial showcase for McCoy? Would they want to get everyone used to the new pairing before pigskin takes over? To throw another wrench into the mix, we have no way of knowing if Undisputed will unveil a new full-time co-host upon return or shuffle in a few people to see who works best.

It could be awhile. Possibly not before the Fourth of July. Possibly not until August. It's not a simple situation and getting it right is paramount. We'll just have to see.