billsimmonsGiven the friction both ways between Bill Simmons and ESPN — including suspensions, dares and the like — perhaps it isn’t surprising to learn Friday that Simmons and ESPN are parting ways.

Still, the manner in which it happened is enough to make one hit the pause button and ruminate a bit. First, the statement from ESPN President John Skipper:

“I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ contract. We have been in negotiations and it was clear it was time to move on. ESPN’s relationship with Bill has been mutually beneficial – he has produced great content for us for many years and ESPN has provided him many new opportunities to spread his wings. We wish Bill continued success as he plans his next chapter. ESPN remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place.”

Deadspin correctly notes that this isn’t your typical corporate statement, and the site also did some insiding with ESPN employees to determine that this feels more like a firing and that most within the Bristol walls were surprised by it.

And the announcement comes several months before Simmons’ contract is up, another stunner. If you had to guess by piecing it all together, you would say ESPN threw its hands up and said, “enough is enough. We’re done dealing with this guy.”

It will be interesting to see where he lands … and to discern the answer to who needed who more: Simmons/ESPN or ESPN/Simmons.

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