Bill Simmons thinks someone at ESPN leaked Magic Johnson story to Deadspin
Magic Johnson revealed last week that he is leaving ESPN’s NBA Countdown this season due to his busy schedule and other commitments. The surprising thing about the announcement was that it came just one night before the start of the NBA season. A report from Deadspin later claimed that the abrupt departure was the result of a power struggle involving Bill Simmons.
Sources reportedly told Deadspin that NBA Countdown is “Simmons’ show now” and that Magic was unhappy when his friend Michael Wilbon was told his role with the show would be diminished.
“The bottom line is they turned that show over to Simmons,” the source supposedly said. “That’s why Doug Collins got hired and why Wilbon was out.”
Johnson, an NBA legend. apparently didn’t like the idea that he now had to answer to Simmons. In a recent interview with SI.com’s Richard Deitsch, Simmons firmly denied that he had anything to do with Magic’s decision to leave. In fact, he believes someone at ESPN leaked it.
“Those unnamed ‘sources’ are liars,” Simmons said. “Someone planted a fake story to try to make me look bad, and there’s a 99.3 percent chance it came from someone in Bristol (which presents its own set of concerns). I was upset; I can’t lie. Maybe this happens to people more often than I realize, and maybe it comes with the territory, but man … I can’t properly explain how fantastic it was to watch basketball with Magic for nine months.”
Simmons said he even felt disappointed when Magic informed him he was leaving and felt like he was giving up on the show.
“Anyway, that’s why the ‘report’ upset me so much — it wasn’t just that someone made it up (and how disturbing that is), but how I felt in real life was the exact opposite of what that ‘report’ portrayed,” he said. “I felt blindsided when Magic left. I thought he was quitting on the show, and I guess on me, too. I took it personally.”
Simmons makes for great television, and the powers at ESPN obviously appreciate his willingness to go after popular NBA coaches and attack other sports networks. As I said before, I thought Magic was horrible with most of his analysis. We may never know the exact reason why he left, but I doubt there are many people who are devastated.