ESPN enters its 20th season of NBA coverage with cross-platform coverage leading up to a prime-time matchup from Madison Square Garden with Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics visiting Julius Randle and the New York Knicks. ESPN Play-by-Play Announcer and “voice of the NBA Finals” Mike Breen will be on the call, joined by sideline reporter Lisa Salters and analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. Jackson, who most recently served as head coach of the Golden State Warriors after a 17-year playing career, looked back on how far the broadcast has come since he first joined it in 2006.
“It [has] progressed with the variety of people [who] are covering the game,” said Jackson on a recent conference call. “Across the board, they’ve done an outstanding job of not making us all look and sound alike. I’m honored to be a part of that group.”
An issue prevalent in many sports, most notably Major League Baseball, pertains to pace-of-play. In an attempt to shorten “America’s Pastime” to attract and hold the attention of younger audiences, the introduction of new rules, such as limitations on mound visits, clocks to regulate time in-between innings, and restrictions on when the batter can step out of the box during an at-bat, have had the adverse effect. The average MLB contest lasts three hours and 11 minutes, the highest mark recorded since consistent measurement began in 1946.
While a regulation, four-quarter NBA game is significantly quicker than an MLB contest, Van Gundy, a former coach of 11 years, hopes the league can shorten the game even more to adapt to today’s viewing audience that holds an average attention span of just eight seconds, shorter than that of a goldfish. He suggests modifying rules, such as the length of halftime and instituting a statute of limitations on challenges, to ensure the game remains enthralling and entertaining for future generations.
“I’d love to see the game shortened into a two-hour window,” said Van Gundy. “I think we need to keep finding ways to reduce stoppages of play from timeouts. I would either shorten or greatly modify halftime. I think [the league has] to constantly look for ways to shorten the viewing window and have as much action in that two-hour timeframe as [it] can.”
With ESPN recently launching the “Manningcast,” an alternate, non-traditional broadcast of Monday Night Football featuring former NFL quarterbacks, Super Bowl champions and brothers Eli and Peyton Manning, the world of sports media has undoubtedly taken notice. The broadcast has a similar feel to friends hanging out and watching a football game, except these friends just so happen to have played and reached the pinnacle of professional football, offering unique perspectives and viewpoints shattering the fourth wall between the athletes and the fans. While the NBA on ESPN has yet to do a broadcast at that scale with regularity, it is something that the network analysts are taking notice of.
“When you’re dealing with one of the greatest to ever play the game in Peyton, and a hall-of-famer in Eli, both guys do an incredible job,” said Jackson. “I think it gives an opportunity for viewers who want to see that type of broadcast. I don’t even know how many channels [ESPN has, but] it’s always going to be something against what we are doing… I have no problem with it at all.”
If ESPN decided to produce a non-traditional, alternate broadcast, Van Gundy offered an idea to close out his broadcasting career where the fans would be given the unfiltered perspective of those who have been on the court.
“I want to do one game, NBA on ESPN: The Entire Truth,” opined Van Gundy. “[We would] be able to tell the entire truth — not 90% of it, not 80% of it, but the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I think that would be an outstanding, one-time broadcast as I sign off and finish my career.”
While Jackson and Van Gundy do not cover the NFL, they have not had their heads in the sand. They were asked about the emails from Jon Gruden leaked during an investigation into the culture of the Washington Football Team. Both hold concerns regarding similar issues that may have already occurred or could occur in the future within the NBA, a league that protested racial injustice last summer when playoff games were postponed and nearly cancelled following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
“It’s unfortunate, and I totally agree with the price that Jon Gruden had to pay for the things that he stated,” said Jackson. “My concern is I truly do not believe it is just a Jon Gruden story. There’s more to it, and there’s people being protected. We have to find a way to weave those people out… [and] hopefully we can get better across the board.”
Van Gundy holds an analogous sentiment with Jackson, and has lost trust in the NFL’s stand against injustice and willingness to do whatever it takes to directly avoid bad publicity
“The NFL has always found ways to protect itself from these things, and to deflect their responsibility,” affirmed Van Gundy. “They’ll give you a lot of clichés about transparency; yet, they are always covering and protecting their own. My level of trust for their investigations is nil.”
Aside from the trio of Breen, Jackson and Van Gundy, ESPN’s lineup of on-air personalities and commentators, the latter of whom all plan to appear on-site this season, includes analysts Doris Burke, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter and play-by-play voices Ryan Ruocco, Mark Jones, Dave Pasch, Brian Custer and Beth Mowins. Additionally, sideline reporters for this season of the N.B.A. on ESPN include Malika Andrews, Katie George, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, Cassidy Hubbarth, Lisa Salters and Jorge Sedano. One name, though, that has been within the N.B.A. landscape longer than any of ESPN’s rotation of broadcasters is Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Famer Hubie Brown, who starts his 50th season in the league between coaching and broadcasting.
Jeff Van Gundy, who ESPN recently inked to a multi-year contract extension, does not think his career will have the longevity of Brown’s, but is grateful for the time he has spent with the network thus far, and looks forward to the future of what he calls his “second career.”
“There has to be an award named for [Hubie Brown] somewhere. He’s 88 — that would take me to 2050. I can’t even imagine that,” said Van Gundy. “The upper management of ESPN has changed a lot, but my direct boss in Tim Corrigan has never changed. Broadcasting is good, but broadcasting with friends is great… I’ve enjoyed it particularly because of who I work for and who I work with. I can’t state how lucky I’ve been along the way to have coached as long as I did and to stumble into a second career.”
ESPN’s 20th season of NBA coverage kicks off Wednesday night with the prime-time matchup between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Colin Cowherd Lets Listeners Decide If He Ever Talks About Baker Mayfield Again
“I am no longer captivated by Baker Mayfield topics.”
Colin Cowherd has been a critic of Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield ever since he was drafted in 2018, but Cowherd may be out of the Baker Mayfield business going forward.
The Fox Sports host put up a video on Twitter about his feelings on Mayfield, and gave his fans of the show a rare opportunity to control some content that he talks about on the show.
“I was watching Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson play on Sunday Night, and Lamar had four picks, and still won, I thought he was fascinating. Didn’t play well but I thought he was fascinating, and I thought, Baker is easily the second most interesting quarterback in this game,” said Cowherd. “He is 28-28 as a starter, I was clearly right about the argument, I am no longer captivated by Baker Mayfield topics.”
That led to Cowherd putting up a Twitter poll and leaving the decision about how to proceed in the listeners’ hands.
“People ask me why I still talk about Baker, and I thought you know what, you are right. That is why I am going to let you decide whether or not I talk about Baker ever again. At 8:30 Pacific I am putting up a poll on Twitter which will decide whether or not I talk about Baker going forward.”
Cowherd then said that if the poll says that he should stop talking about Mayfield, that he will be done regardless of the circumstances.
“If he goes on a 5 game win streak, he gets to the playoffs, the AFC Championship, the Super Bowl, I won’t be talking about him, you can’t have it both ways.”
The results of the poll showed that the fans no longer wanted Cowherd to talk about Mayfield, a result which seemed to be the obvious choice considering how often his name comes out of Cowherds mouth.
It remains to be seen whether or not Cowherd will honor this going forward. If the Browns were to make the Super Bowl I find it extremely hard to believe that it won’t be a topic on his show, but it will be good to hear no repetitive Baker Mayfield talk for at least a little while from him.
An NBA Manningcast With JJ Reddick & Draymond Green?
“I would be honored to sit in a room with a GOAT like yourself and talk basketball.”
With the overwhelming success that the Manningcast has been for Monday Night Football, other leagues and networks are looking to replicate ESPN’s and the Manning Brothers’ formula.
There may be some willing hosts for an NBA version of the show in JJ Redick and Draymond Green. Redick joined Green’s new podcast The Draymond Green Show on The Volume to talk about a potential partnership between the two in the future.
“I know you got a lot of basketball left in you, but a lot of people have said to me you and Draymond need to do a version of the Manning brothers Monday Night Football when Draymond is retired. Just keep that in mind when you retire in 5 or 6 years,” said Redick to Green.
Before answering, Draymond Green noted that he had recently been a guest on the Manningcast. Not only did he like the experience, he said it is now his favorite way to watch Monday Night Football.
Green liked the idea of teaming with Redick. He said that the duo play very different styles of basketball. That would give the listeners two very different perspectives on the game.
“I would be honored to sit in a room with a GOAT like yourself and talk basketball,” Green added. Redick ended the conversation about a potential alternate NBA feed by saying “We’ll make it happen.”
This would not be something new for the NBA to do. They are already trying out the idea of an alternate cast of NBA broadcasts with Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson on NBA League Pass.
As Redick stated, it may be a while until we see Draymond Green retire from his playing career in the NBA, but when he does I am sure that he will be a hot commodity in the sports media world.
All 3 Thanksgiving Games Pull Big Audiences For NFL
CBS’s production of the overtime thriller between the Dallas Cowboys and the Las Vegas Raiders brought in a whopping 38.5 million average viewers.
The numbers are in for the NFL Thanksgiving day games, and the results are overall a positive for the league. CBS received the highest viewership of all the networks this Thanksgiving, and put up some record numbers in the process.
CBS’s production of the overtime thriller between the Dallas Cowboys and the Las Vegas Raiders brought in a whopping 38.5 million average viewers. This is a 26% increase from last year’s comparable window and the highest viewership for a regular-season game on any network since 1990.
The game is also the most-watched television program on any network since last year’s Super Bowl on CBS.
Paramount+, featuring live NFL ON CBS local market games, scored an NFL regular-season viewership record for total streams, streaming minutes and unique viewers while registering triple-digit year-over-year growth in streaming minutes and unique viewers from Thanksgiving Day 2020 in a huge success for CBS on the day.
FOX also faired well, as their viewership for the first game of the day between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears was up 14% over last years window, sitting at 26.7 million average viewers.
Despite the game itself not being super exciting, the game set a record for the most-streamed Thanksgiving day game across FOX Sports properties in their history.
The primetime game on NBC did not fair as well, as they came in at an average of 19.3 million viewers, a 7% decrease from 2019, as 2020’s game was postponed due to COVID protocols. NBC was not aided by what was mostly a one-sided game most of the night.
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