SI's Deitsch Examines ESPN's NBA Coverage, Changes This Season
ESPN is moving its NBA studio show to L.A. this season “to take advantage of an increased role for Magic Johnson and the close proximity to some of the biggest NBA stars and celebrities,” according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. The show will now tape at ESPN's L.A. Production Center at L.A. Live. Hannah Storm and Stuart Scott “have exited as pregame hosts,” as the net will have Johnson, Jon Barry, Chris Broussard and Michael Wilbon “in a free-flowing format, without a set host.” While ESPN execs claim that “this isn't a direct response to TNT's ‘Inside the NBA,’ clearly those in Bristol hope to duplicate the same chemistry that has made Turner's show the best in class.” ESPN Senior VP & Managing Editor of Studio Production Mark Gross said, "We are kind of thinking, 'Do we really need a traditional host for this show? Can't it be these four guys talking about the NBA like they would be talking about the NBA in the hallway or over dinner?' We are taking a chance and trying something different from most of our shows.” Deitsch writes ESPN has “high hopes for Johnson, but while he's one of the most likable guys in basketball and a great ambassador for the sport, he's an average analyst (at best) with a below-average voice.” It “doesn't help that Wilbon genuflects at his presence nearly every time they are together on air.” Still, the “bold, outside-the-box changes to the studio show are to be applauded.” The quartet “has the potential for interesting talk,” and it is a “smart group, even with Broussard's and Wilbon's tendency to show certain players an inordinate amount of love” (SI.com, 12/21).
SHAQ ATTACK: TNT's Charles Barkley appeared on NBC's "The Tonight Show" last night and discussed the addition of Shaquille O’Neal to the "Inside the NBA" crew. Barkley said, “Me and Shaq are going to have so much fun together. … I think he's going to be great on television. We're excited to have him.” NBC's Jay Leno referenced a promo for the show featuring O'Neal and said, “It looked like he took a little shot at you.” Barkley: “I had seen that before. That’s the people who I work with at TNT taking a shot at me because I take a lot of shots at them at work. That's OK. I'll take that. Welcome, Shaq” (“The Tonight Show,” NBC, 12/20).