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HBO To Debut Documentary ‘SHAQ’ In November

“We kept this documentary real from the start, and I do feel like it is the most honest look into my life and career up until this point,” said O’Neal.

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HBO Sports is rolling out a documentary about the former NBA World Champion and current Inside the NBA analyst, Shaquille O’Neal.

The documentary, entitled SHAQ, is a four-part series detailing the life and career of O’Neal and will debut on Wednesday November 23.

The series will feature interviews with O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Dwyane Wade, Dennis Scott, Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher and Rick Fox; his head coaches Phil Jackson and Pat Riley; and former Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Jerry West. It will also encompass interviews with several of his family members.

“We kept this documentary real from the start, and I do feel like it is the most honest look into my life and career up until this point,” said O’Neal. “This process allowed me to reflect publicly in a way I haven’t before, and I’m so proud of the work everyone has done to put it all together.”

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David Roberts of ESPN: ‘The More Versatile You Are, The More Valuable You Are’

“The last thing we want is talent that’s all the same, which amounts to nothing more than elevator music.”

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David Roberts
Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN is prepared to begin its coverage of the 2024 NBA Playoffs as 16 teams battle to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy as league champions. Various stars from across the Association will participate in the action starting with Round 1 on Friday night, including LeBron James, Jayson Tatum and Nikola Jokić.

Additionally, NBA on ESPN playoffs coverage will mark the postseason debut of the network’s new lead broadcast team of play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, analysts Doris Burke and JJ Redick and reporter Lisa Salters. Redick was originally a member of the secondary broadcast team with Ryan Ruocco, Richard Jefferson and Cassidy Hubbarth, but the departure of Doc Rivers from the lead crew to coach the Milwaukee Bucks led to this change.

Earlier in the year, ESPN Head of Event & Studio Production David Roberts referred to the secondary broadcast team as “the potential making of a succession plan.” With the alteration to the broadcast teams in-season though, he remains optimistic that the network will present a strong playoff performance. Redick brings a different perspective to the lead broadcast crew of a player recently removed from NBA game action who has demonstrated a propensity for analytics and explaining their significance to trends within the game. Outside of his broadcasting work, he exhibits versatility in sports media, appearing on various ESPN programs such as First Take, co-hosting both The Old Man and the Three and Mind the Game podcasts and co-founding ThreeFourTwo Productions.

“Hey, it makes us all look good,” Roberts said of Redick’s versatility. “The fact is that the more versatile you are, the more valuable you are, and JJ Redick and Stephen A. Smith are prime examples of that.”

Smith is a featured commentator and executive producer on First Take, but also engages in a variety of projects outside of the morning show. During the NBA season, he appears in studio or on location for NBA Countdown, hosts his own podcast, titled The Stephen A. Smith Show, and operates his media production company, Mr. SAS Productions.

Smith’s contract with ESPN is reportedly due to expire next year, and he has spoken candidly about his worth on numerous occasions. Additionally, he has stated that he wakes up every morning thinking about how he can make his bosses more money and how to get some of it, a sentiment he elaborated on in his best-selling book, “Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes.”

“Stephen A. loves the NBA, and his commitment to covering the NBA is just simply outstanding,” Roberts said. “He’s unafraid to say what needs to be said. He could care less whether someone is ticked off in the process because he also is an outstanding journalist who will back up his opinions with facts. So when you watch Stephen A., you’re watching a multi-versatile individual who can handle just about anything in broadcasting; in fact, I’ll say he can handle anything in broadcasting.”

Roberts proceeded to explain that a majority of ESPN talent are not “cookie cutter” and approach things in their own way. Earlier in the media conference call, he discussed Malika Andrews, who is in her first season hosting NBA Countdown, and how she brings an “exemplary” work ethic to the program. Roberts also divulged that ratings for NBA Countdown are up 7% year-over-year.

Additionally, he spoke about how studio analyst and color commentator Bob Myers always shows up to every meeting prepared and is an innate winner and team player. As long as the talent are doing things that fit their style and the content objectives of ESPN and The Walt Disney Company, Roberts explained, they are allowed to be their authentic selves on the airwaves.

“That’s the type of versatility we’re looking for,” Roberts said, referencing JJ Redick. “The last thing we want is talent that’s all the same, which amounts to nothing more than elevator music.”

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FOX Sports and The Basketball Tournament Announce Multi-Year Agreement

“With a growing number of players I’ve crossed paths within the league committed to play, this summer will be both competitive and entertaining for TBT.”

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Picture of the trophy for The Basketball Tournament
Courtesy: FOX Sports

The Basketball Tournament (TBT), the $1 million winner-take-all summer event announced a multi-year media rights agreement with FOX Sports to carry games on FOX, FS1, and FS2. As part of the agreement, the network will carry 27 TBT games live on linear television, including three on FOX.

“We are thrilled to make FOX Sports the new home of TBT,” said TBT co-owner and Golden State Warriors guard Chris Paul. “The event has experienced tremendous growth these past few years and this agreement will take it to new heights. With a growing number of players I’ve crossed paths within the league committed to play, this summer will be both competitive and entertaining for TBT.”

“We are excited to kick off our second decade of TBT with FOX Sports,” said TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar. “Across FOX, FS1, and FS2, we will reach more basketball fans than ever before, further cementing TBT as a mainstay on the basketball calendar. This summer will make for our most electrifying tournament yet.”

TBT is a 64-team, single-elimination tournament hosted across eight regionals. All regional events are hosted by an alumni team representing a powerhouse college basketball program.

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Diamond Sports Group Approved to Hold Creditor Vote on Reorganization

“We are focused on reaching long-term agreements with our partners to enable us to continue serving fans across the U.S. and delivering meaningful value to distributors, teams and leagues.”

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Bally Sports
Courtesy: Diamond Sports Group

Diamond Sports Group has been within bankruptcy proceedings for over a year as it looks to restructure its debt, but received news on Wednesday that could potentially point in a positive direction. Judge Christopher M. Lopez has approved a disclosure statement that will help guide Diamond out of the bankruptcy, which includes $450 million of debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing, $350 million of which will pay its first-lien debt holders. The plan Diamond outlined within its DIP approval was that the remainder of the funding would be transferred to the company’s balance sheet concurrent with broadcasts of National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball games.

The Sinclair subsidiary, which was created upon the acquisition of the then-FOX Sports-branded regional sports networks as part of a $10.6 billion deal with The Walt Disney Company so it could complete its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, currently serves as the broadcast home for 38 professional sports teams. Junior creditors are expected to assume operations of the subsidiary should it be able to successfully emerge from bankruptcy and enact its restructuring support agreement (RSA).

“Approval of the disclosure statement is another important step forward in our restructuring and we are working toward confirming our plan and emerging as a sustainable, go-forward business,” a Diamond Sports Group spokesperson said in a statement. “We are focused on reaching long-term agreements with our partners to enable us to continue serving fans across the U.S. and delivering meaningful value to distributors, teams and leagues.”

A hearing to determine the confirmation of the plan will take place on Tuesday, June 18 at 10 am. CST, and objections to which must be filed by Wednesday, May 22 at 4 p.m. CST. Lopez will also take the results of a forthcoming creditor vote regarding the plan into account in his decision. The company recently reached a multi-year distribution deal with Charter that would come to fruition if it is able to emerge from bankruptcy. Diamond has yet to come to agreements with Comcast or DIRECTV on new deals, creating ambiguity surrounding revenue that comes from retransmission and advertising fees. John Ourand of Puck News reports that Diamond is closer to reaching a deal with DIRECTV than Comcast.

The NBA will reportedly not consider a long-term renewal with Diamond until its national media rights deals are in place, according to Anthony Crupi of Sportico. The expiration of its exclusive negotiating window with The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery closes on Monday, April 22, which will then allow other interested parties to bid for media rights associated with the league.

Earlier in the week, the NBA and NHL communicated concerns about the ongoing process because of the ambiguity it has engendered for planning its broadcast scheme after the year. Ahead of the hearing on Wednesday, Lopez had approved an extension that delayed the deadline to solicit acceptance of the company’s reorganization plan through and including Thursday, Nov. 14.

As part of the restructuring, Amazon will invest a reported $100 million in Diamond Sports Group that will have Prime Video become the primary streaming partner of the regional sports networks. Diamond owns digital rights to the NBA and NHL teams it carries; however, it does not have all of those rights for teams in MLB. Nine months after the restructuring plan is complete, Amazon will reportedly have the option to invest an additional $50 million into Diamond Sports Group.

Diamond claims that approximately 81% of its revenue is attributable to its deals with national multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) Charter, Comcast and DIRECTV. Furthermore, it stated that its subscribers have dropped by 35% from 2019 until the petition date in late-February of this year.

The company has been broadcasting Major League Baseball games as scheduled throughout the year following a season in which it terminated agreements with the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks. Recent court filings revealed that Diamond Sports Group and the San Diego Padres agreed to a settlement worth approximately $79 million. It remains unknown if Diamond discussed and/or reached a deal with the Diamondbacks or if the organization is in active litigation with the regional sports network operator.

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