In Richard Deitch's latest SI media column, news has been broken that ESPN has finally made an innovative, interesting, and risky hire for their coverage of the NBA Finals. No, it's not a professional carnival barker or even a former or current player/coach. Instead, ESPN has hired Steve Javie, one of the most high-profile, controversial officials in recent memory as a pre and post-game analyst during the NBA Finals. While the move might seem minor to some, it's incredibly important for both the quality of ESPN's broadcast and the NBA's credibility.
Of course, the hiring of Javie is inspired by FOX's Mike Pereira, the former head of NFL officiating who has become one of the most important on-screen figures on any network in any sport. Pereira's unique perspective has allowed him to educate fans and announcers alike as he has guided viewers through replays and rules disputes. Seemingly, Javie would serve a similar role for ESPN to provide fans with an official's perspective on the most important calls during the NBA Finals.
For once, ESPN is making a solid decision to strengthen their tepid studio coverage of the NBA. Their decision to skip a traditional host to create their own dynamic chemistry ala Inside the NBA has been largely ineffective. Also, Magic Johnson continues to prove why star players don't make the best transition to television. Although, at least the absence of the Lakers removes his glaring conflict of interest. The inclusion of Javie finally gives the NBA on ESPN something different and better than their competition at Turner.