ESPN NBA Countdown is turning into televised basketball's game of musical chairs. After swapping Doug Collins in for Michael Wilbon and adding Doris Burke to the fold, today Magic Johnson released a statement through ESPN that he would not be part of their coverage this year:
"I love ESPN. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my schedule and other commitments, I don't feel confident that I can continue to devote the time needed to thrive in my role. I will always feel a strong connection to the ESPN family and I enjoyed working with them very much. I'd like to thank John Skipper, John Wildhack, Mark Gross, Kim Belton, Amina Hussein, Mark Summer, Adam Hertzog, Bob Rauscher, Stuart Scott, Mike Wilbon, Jon Barry, Jalen Rose, Bill Simmons, Chris Broussard and the many others at ESPN for the wonderful opportunity to talk about the game I love. They are the best in the business."
Magic Johnson is a basketball legend, an inspirational figure, and now a successful owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers... but he was never great on television. As much as ESPN tried to force it, moving to Los Angeles and positioning the studio entirely around him, Magic just never translated his basketball IQ and likable personality to great studio analysis. Remember when he tried to read Lakers highlights?
With Magic Johnson and Michael Wilbon moving on and Doug Collins and Doris Burke on their way in, the ESPN NBA studio is going to look vastly different for the second straight year.
UPDATE: Deadspin reported Johnson left NBA Countdown because he was on the losing end of a power struggle with Bill Simmons after friend Michael Wilbon was booted from the main set. Bill Simmons strongly denied the report on Twitter saying, "My first experience today with someone writing a "sources" report about me that's not true. Part amusing, part horrifying." He also tweeted that Magic would be on his podcast next week. Whatever the case, it's an angle worth following in the coming days and weeks ahead.
To me, Bill Simmons is the "Dennis Miller" of basketball commentating.
What shows well on paper doesn't always translate to the screen.
I'd leave the show, too, if ESPN were trying to turn me into a sports version of some ridiculous drama-ridden reality show with a mealy mouthed wannabe.
Why not bring in Jon Barry and have him and Bill Simmons exclusively. Now there's a gold standard team. Ha!
@awfulannouncing if bill Simmons is still on TV, halftime will be a long bathroom break
@awfulannouncing hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! hal-leeeee-lujah!
I'm sad to Wilbon go but glad to see Magic Johnson leave. BIll Simmons seems to do a lot better when he doesn't have to constantly bow down to Magic. He was basically the best part of ESPN's draft coverage. In fact he made it worth watching. Magic Johnson is unengaging in every way and like I said people seem to agree with him too much. I wish they would run a lineup of Bill Simmons, Doug Collins/George Karl, Michael Wilbon,and a former player. The only problem is all of ESPN's former NBA players are terrible analysts (at least IMO).
@awfulannouncing Bill Simmons voice as a writer is insightful, compelling. His on-camera persona is like a mouthfull of wet cottonballs
@awfulannouncing Yes it was Bills' input. Magic is way to busy to keep up with bad b-ball
@awfulannouncing. Bill Simmons would LOVE for people to think he was the reason. NOT.
@awfulannouncing Simmons ruins basketball coverage, for me. I actively avoid him as a television personality.
@awfulannouncing Considering how much Bill kissed Magic's ass on the show and mentions him in his pod, that seems EXTREMELY unlikely.
It will look much different and much better. Collins has always been really good on tv and I think Doris Burke is one of the better basketball analysts out there. Also the addition as Burke as a host might mean a little more structure to the show. Last year ESPNs NBA crew looked like a 4 cars all at a blinking yellow light.
@SneakerCNCPTS thank Gawd fam!
He has more than enough on his plate. His on-air exploits came nowhere close to his on-court prowess.
@S2NFL yep! that's whose name I couldn't remember last night - Simmons...
@awfulannouncing *mouthful...spelling counts
@RUNMGD I forgot about him. Lol.