ESPN The Magazine Releasing Commemorative Kobe Bryant Issue
ESPN the Magazine continues to print a handful of commemorative issues each year, the first of which will drop this Friday -- a 96-page issue on Kobe Bryant. The publication will carry the ESPN brand -- not ESPN the Magazine. ESPN VP/Storytelling & Special Projects Alison Overholt said, "We specifically limited this to be a test case to do the work, see how the process goes and see if this makes sense." She added, "We'll evaluate when and how often it makes sense to do something like this." The Bryant issue will include photographs, features and essays, and ESPN's Jackie MacMullan, Baxter Holmes and Ramona Shelburne have bylines on features in the issue. Several well-known ESPN personalities also wrote essays, including Rachel Nichols, Shelley Smith, Stephen A. Smith, Sarah Spain, Pablo Torre, Michael Wilbon, Jay Williams and Adrian Wojnarowski. Meanwhile, SI has announced plans for a similar 100-page tribute issue on Bryant (John Ourand, SBJ Media).
TOUCHING TRIBUTE: The AP's Joe Reedy noted the Lakers' first game since Bryant's death was the "second-most watched regular-season NBA game" all time on ESPN. Trail Blazers-Lakers last Friday averaged 4.41 million viewers. The only telecast to "surpass that since ESPN resumed NBA coverage" in '02-03 was a January '03 Lakers-Rockets game that featured the "first matchup between Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming," which averaged 4.88 million viewers. The Bryant pregame ceremony on Friday averaged 5.23 million. The audience peaked at 6.07 million between 10:45-11:00pm ET, which was the "conclusion of the ceremony and the start of the game" (AP, 2/3).