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Stephen A. Smith: 2022 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Was ‘National Atrocity’

“It was so bad, it’s one of the rare moments that I think we should actually hide the trophy… That’s how bad it was.”

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Other than the All-Star Game, the highlight of NBA All-Star Weekend has often been the Slam Dunk Contest. But this year, the exhibition was, well, anything but a slam dunk.

The contest was widely panned on social media, largely for competitors missing so many dunks. But lack of creativity and a serious lack of star power — something that’s plagued what used to be a showcase for the league — were also cited as major problems.

Simply put, when the league’s most explosive dunkers (hello, Ja Morant) aren’t participating in the contest, it’s a huge problem. The days of Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins wowing fans seem so long ago.

So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Stephen A. Smith would be ready to unleash on the NBA Slam Dunk Contest during Monday’s First Take. And unlike Juan Toscano-Anderson, Cole Anthony, Jalen Green, and eventual winner Obi Toppin, Stephen A. did not disappoint.

“That was the worst slam dunk contest in the history of basketball,” Smith said as Molly Qerim and Kendrick Perkins sat back in anticipation of the fury to come. “It was a national atrocity. It was awful. Somebody needs to say it, so I’m gonna say it.”

OK, plenty of people were saying it. However, they’re not Stephen A. Smith and they don’t have the national platform of ESPN’s First Take. Apologies for the interruption. Let Smith continue.

“Now I’m happy that a Knick won something. We actually had a New York Knick that won something. That was Obi Toppin,” Smith added, compelling Qerim to cover her face with her notes. “It was so bad, it’s one of the rare moments that I think we should actually hide the trophy. We should actually hide the trophy. That’s how bad it was.”

The clip above has to be watched in its entirety to get the full effect, including Smith saying he, at 54 with bad knees, could have missed as many dunks as the professionals who participated and his proposal for a national slam dunk tournament to find athletes who can put on a show.

Sure, Stephen A. could have celebrated Steph Curry’s 50-point performance in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game. And he did, calling him the face of the NBA right now over LeBron James. But greatness doesn’t work up nearly as much outrage as mediocrity or failure. And the tirade wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable. That probably wasn’t an All-Star Stephen A. rant, but it was a good one.

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Chris Fallica Leaving ESPN for FOX

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

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A prominent sports betting voice featured on ESPN’s College GameDay will be heading to rival FOX and their Big Noon Kickoff show starting in 2023. According to Awful Announcing, Chris Fallica, affectionately known as “The Bear”, will make his last appearance on GameDay will be this weekend.

Fallica has been with ESPN since 1995. Since 2013, Fallica had been featured on GameDay making betting picks with his patented “Bear’s Board”.

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Fallica joins Tom Rinaldi as the second former GameDay voice to jump over to FOX and be featured on Big Noon Kickoff.

Both shows have experienced incredible viewership growth this season. For GameDay, there have been several weeks this season that have seen some of the largest audiences in the show’s history.

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Tim Brando Believes Executives Look For Familiarity, Not Great Voices For Announcers

“Executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio. As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

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Tim Brando has seen the broadcasting industry has evolved in a lot of ways through the years, but one thing that’s remained constant is how infrequently some of the announcing gigs with major networks open up to younger voices.

That’s mainly because you have veteran talent already occupying those positions with no plans for the immediate future to step aside.

On a recent edition of The Sports Talkers Podcast, FOX Sports broadcaster and host Tim Brando spoke to Stephen Strom about the reality that many broadcasters face.

“Yeah there are a lot more jobs, but there are fewer great jobs,” Brando said. “A lot of guys are getting jobs, but it’s like a dead end.”

But in terms of hiring younger talent for network jobs, he thinks it’s become more about adding faces to broadcast booths rather than voices.

“There’s a tendency I think now in our business to hire more visible and perhaps more popular talent because they’ve been in the studio,” he said. “But they’re not ready to be in the booth. Not everybody can do both well.”

Tim added that there’s a nuance to calling play-by-play versus working studio coverage. Brando said that perhaps it has a lot more to do with young broadcasters bypassing getting their start in radio and going right into TV.

“It seems to me that in some circles anyway in our business, executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio,” he said. “As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Brando did mention some of the younger voices at FOX who have risen to the bigger opportunities in the booth, and how they ultimately worked their way up. He said he’s had the chance to offer advice to a few of them and act as a mentor in a way, because that’s how it was for him breaking into the industry.

“I believe in pouring into the young broadcasters out there, I really do,” he said. “Because Curt Gowdy poured into me. I think there’s a responsibility and a level of accountability for the generation before to help those that are coming up that you really respect.”

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MLB Network Airing 38 Hours of Winter Meetings Coverage

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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The annual winter meetings for MLB are set to take place in-person for the first time since 2019 next week, and MLB Network is ready to bring viewers all the coverage possible from San Diego.

The network is devoting 38 hours of live programming on-site, with shows like MLB Tonight, Hot Stove, High Heat, MLB Now and Intentional Talk emanating from the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fans tuning in to MLB Network can expect to see Greg Amsinger, Fran Charles, Brian Kenny, Stephen Nelson, Alanna Rizzo, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Lauren Shehadi and Matt Vasgersian hosting their respective shows throughout the week. Sean Casey, Mark DeRosa, Al Leiter, Cameron Maybin, Kevin Millar, Dan O’Dowd, Steve Phillips and Harold Reynolds will contribute coverage as analysts.

MLB Network will also carry coverage of the inaugural draft lottery from the winter meetings on Tuesday, December 6 at 8:30 p.m.

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