For the recent past, TNT has had a stranglehold on the top spot of NBA studio shows. The crew on TNT’s Inside the NBA has a real cohesiveness that is brought together by their excellent host, Ernie Johnson. The show simply has a like-ability about it that ESPN’s NBA Countdown has not been able to replicate.
With a new season on the horizon, ESPN has announced major changes to it’s NBA television coverage. As we wrote about the other day, Doug Collins will be joining the crew (as a replacement for Michael Wilbon) after three seasons on the bench in Philadelphia. Today, more moves were announced. First, Magic Johnson will not be returning to ESPN. Johnson said in a statement that he no longer has the time due to his other commitments.
“I love ESPN. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my schedule and other commitments, I don’t feel confident that I can continue to devote the time needed to thrive in my role,” Johnson said in a statement. “I will always feel a strong connection to the ESPN family and I enjoyed working with them very much.”
Another piece of exciting news is that former sideline reporter Doris Burke will be joining the studio show as an analyst. Sports Illustrated broke the news earlier today.
“SI.com has learned that Burke will appear on the ESPN NBA pregame show on Wednesdays during the regular season. That makes Burke the first woman to serve as a regularly-appearing analyst for a national NBA studio show.”
With Wilbon also leaving the show, it leaves Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose as the only returning members. Collins and Burke will join them, possibly along with other candidates.
Burke and Collins are both smart people and bring a wide range of basketball knowledge to the show. It will be interesting to see how the new cast works together, however, especially considering they are still without a host to move things along and control the show. But regardless of how the new group fares, NBA Countdown will likely be second fiddle to Inside the NBA for years to come.