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#pounditTuesday, December 7, 2021

Articles tagged: ESPN

Report: ESPN interested in hiring Draymond Green

Draymond Green

ESPN already has a number of former NBA players appearing on their network, but now they could be going after a current one as well.

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported on Thursday that ESPN is interested in hiring Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green for their “NBA Countdown” show. Green would only be available on occasion however as an active player.

The former Defensive Player of the Year Green has already dipped his toe into television. He has made guest appearances on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” and even joined CNN as a contributor last year.

Still, Green once got fined for something he said on TV. If he wants a shot with ESPN, he may have to be a bit more careful with his choice of words.

Report: Stephen A. Smith wants to team up with Magic Johnson on ESPN

Magic Johnson

Stephen A. Smith is a powerful man at ESPN, and when he has an ideal co-host in mind, the network tends to listen. That’s what makes Smith’s latest reported idea so interesting.

According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, Smith wants to team up with Magic Johnson on TV, possibly as part of “NBA Countdown.” Smith’s ideal setup would involve him, Johnson, and longtime “Pardon the Interruption” co-host Michael Wilbon, who works with Smith frequently on “SportsCenter.”

It’s not clear if ESPN would be willing to put Smith and his selected co-hosts on “NBA Countdown.” In the past, the network has resisted making him a centerpiece of its NBA pregame show, feeling his opinionated style is not a good fit for the program. However, there is some belief that the pre-existing camaraderie of Smith, Johnson, and Wilbon would come through on the air.

Johnson could also have a role as Smith’s debate partner on “First Take” as part of a rotation. ESPN plans to use a rotating cast of co-hosts on that program after Max Kellerman’s departure.

The network is currently revamping its NBA programming in light of the high-profile departure of Maria Taylor and the demotion of Rachel Nichols stemming from her controversial comments about Taylor that leaked this year. With the NBA coverage in flux, Smith certainly appears poised to step into the void.

Johnson has done TV before, although his contributions haven’t been terribly noteworthy. He certainly has his share of opinions, but also gets roasted somewhat frequently for some of his more obvious takes.

ESPN removing Rachel Nichols from all NBA programming

Rachel Nichols

Another major on-air shakeup is coming to ESPN.

ESPN has taken Rachel Nichols off all its NBA programming, as first reported by Sports Business Journal on Wednesday. The network has also decided to cancel Nichols’ popular weekday basketball show “The Jump.”

The report adds that Nichols remains under contract, which has over a year remaining on it, but is unlikely to appear on the air for ESPN over that time. Meanwhile, “The Jump” will run for a few more episodes over the next couple of weeks, none of which will have Nichols as the host.

The move comes roughly two months after a controversy involving leaked audio of Nichols arose, causing a rift at the network. Nichols had expressed disappointment that ESPN colleague Maria Taylor was given the hosting job for the 2020 NBA Finals instead of her. Nichols indicated that she thought that the network was trying to rectify their supposedly poor track record on diversity with the decision.

Nichols was subsequently removed from covering the 2021 Finals as well in light of the controversy. She also got taken off one episode of “The Jump” but had since returned to host the show, which debuted in 2016 and netted Nichols a Sports Emmy nomination for best host earlier this year. A number of people, most notably NBA commissioner Adam Silver, had criticized ESPN for their handling of the Nichols situation.

The Nichols news is the latest in a series of changes for ESPN. Earlier this week, they removed another well-known personality from an on-air role.

Max Kellerman removed from ‘First Take’ and will host ESPN Radio show

Max Kellerman

The reports about Max Kellerman leaving ESPN’s “First Take” were true, and the network has officially announced a new role for him.

ESPN announced on Tuesday that Kellerman will be a part of its revamped ESPN Radio lineup. He will now join Keyshawn Johnson and Jayson Williams as co-hosts of the “Keyshawn, JWill & Max” show on weekday mornings from 6-10 a.m EST. Kellerman, who previously hosted “The Max Kellerman Show” from 2-4 p.m., will also host a new television series, though the details for that have not been announced. Kellerman will continue with his weekly ESPN2 boxing show “Max on Boxing.”

The new changes will take effect on Sept. 7, so Kellerman’s last “First Take” show will be sometime before then.

ESPN did not announce an updated format for “First Take,” but the belief is they will rotate in-house analysts and special guests as hosts alongside Stephen A. Smith. While we have heard of one big name as a potential Kellerman replacement, it does not sound like anyone besides Smith will be on the show full-time.

Smith, who is the highest-paid employee at ESPN, reportedly did not enjoy working with Kellerman and wanted him off “First Take.”

Could Michael Irvin be a possibility for ESPN’s ‘First Take’?

Michael Irvin

Max Kellerman is expected to be removed from his role as co-host of ESPN’s “First Take” in the near future, which means there will be a vacancy on the show next to Stephen A. Smith. The spot will likely be filled with one or more internal candidates, but Michael Irvin is apparently a name to watch if ESPN tries to hire someone new.

Bobby Burack of Outkick reported on Thursday that Irvin could potentially make his way into the “First Take” rotation.

ESPN may not replace Kellerman with a full-time co-host and could instead use a rotation of in-house analysts and special guests to debate Smith, according Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports. Irvin currently works for NFL Network, so it’s unclear if ESPN would be interested in hiring the Hall of Famer full-time or having him as a guest on “First Take” occasionally.

Irving worked for ESPN years ago on “Sunday Night Countdown” and “Monday Night Countdown.” He was let go after his contract expired in 2010. Irvin now works as an analyst for NFL Network.

Whatever happens with “First Take,” Smith will obviously have a say. It sounds like he is the reason Kellerman is being taken off the show. ESPN executives will want to make sure Smith is happy with whichever direction the show goes.

Stephen A. Smith has had ‘disdain’ for Max Kellerman on ‘First Take’?

Stephen A. Smith

Max Kellerman is expected to be removed from his longtime role as co-host of ESPN’s “First Take” in the near future, and it would stand to reason that Stephen A. Smith played a role in the decision. Apparently, Smith does not enjoy his on-screen debates with Kellerman.

Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports first reported on Wednesday that Kellerman is expected to be pulled off of “First Take.” According to Outkick’s Bobby Burack, Smith has wanted Kellerman gone for quite some time.

As Burack described it this week, Smith’s “disdain for Kellerman as a co-host is the worst kept secret in sports media circles.” Smith supposedly tried to have Kellerman removed from “First Take” when Smith was negotiating a contract extension with ESPN in 2019. The network did not accommodate the request but raised Smith’s salary to more than $10 million per year, making him the highest-paid employee at ESPN.

ESPN may not replace Kellerman with a full-time co-host and could instead use a rotation of in-house analysts and special guests to debate Smith. Kellerman is expected to remain prominent with ESPN as a boxing and MMA analyst. He could also replace Zubin Mehenti on the “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin” morning radio show.

There is one person that Smith would probably love to partner with, but it’s unlikely that ESPN can make that happen.

LeBron James issues response after ESPN snub

LeBron James

LeBron James is about to enter Year 19 in the NBA, but he still clearly sees himself as the best player in the league.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps polled ten NBA scouts and executives this week on a number of different topics. One such topic was “Who is the best player in the NBA heading into the 2021-22 season?” Brooklyn Nets star forward Kevin Durant and Milwaukee Bucks reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo tied for first place with five votes each. James, meanwhile, failed to receive even a single vote.

The Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted out an apparent response shortly after, thanking the panel for providing him with more fuel heading into the year.

James, who will be 37 later this year, turned in a 2020-21 season not far off from his peak production. He averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game despite missing significant time with a high ankle sprain.

The four-time MVP has been widely seen as the best player in the NBA for over a decade now but obviously cannot remain so forever. James apparently does not think he has fallen off his perch yet though and will look forward to a season where many are writing off both him and his teammates.

Report: Max Kellerman could leave ESPN’s ‘First Take’

Max Kellerman

Major changes could be coming to ESPN’s “First Take” with one of its co-hosts set for a potential departure.

According to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, co-host Max Kellerman is strongly considering leaving “First Take” after five years to focus more on his ESPN Radio duties and other TV appearances. Kellerman hosts the “Max Kellerman Show” on ESPN Radio, as well as a boxing show on ESPN2.

If Kellerman does leave, the network is not expected to bring in a new debate partner for Stephen A. Smith. Smith would instead likely debate other ESPN personalities or guests instead of having a permanent daily debate partner.

“It could be Stephen A. vs the World,” one source told Front Office Sports.

Kellerman has been Smith’s debate partner since 2016, succeeding Skip Bayless. There have been rumors that Bayless could return to ESPN opposite Smith, but his decision to sign a new contract at FOX Sports last year put that talk to rest.

Robert Griffin III lands broadcasting job with ESPN

Robert Griffin III

Robert Griffin III still wants to play in the NFL, but the quarterback has landed a broadcasting gig in the meantime.

Griffin has agreed to a deal with ESPN, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. His contract with the network includes an out that allows him to return to playing at any time.

RG3 has reportedly had multiple interviews with TV networks, and he has impressed executives. Two networks were said to be in a bidding war over him as of two months ago. ESPN apparently made the best offer.

It was previously reported that ESPN wanted to hire Griffin for both studio work and to serve as a color analyst for college games. He also may make appearances on shows throughout the week.

Griffin has expressed interest in serving as a mentor for one specific quarterback this season. He’s still just 31, so it is not out of the question that he will land a backup job in 2021. In the meantime, he has found a way to remain very visible.

Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via CC-BY-SA 2.0

Maria Taylor leaving ESPN, reportedly headed to NBC

Maria Taylor

Maria Taylor finished hosting the NBA Finals for ESPN on Tuesday night, and that will be her last assignment with the network.

Taylor and ESPN both released statements on Wednesday announcing that they could not come to an agreement on a contract extension. ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro thanked Taylor and complimented her on her “remarkable success.” Taylor’s statement also indicated that the split was amicable.

“So thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, Women’s and Men’s college basketball, and the NBA Countdown family — the people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me, and lifted me up,” Taylor wrote. “Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”

The statements came not long after Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported that Taylor is leaving ESPN to work for NBC. The 34-year-old is expected to be a part of NBC’s coverage of the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on Friday.

Marchand says Taylor could also become the host of “Football Night in America” when Mike Tirico takes over for Al Michaels as the play-by-play announcer for “Sunday Night Football.”

Taylor’s days with ESPN appeared to be numbered when she reportedly turned down $5 million per year from the network. She was said to be seeking Stephen A. Smith money, and we recently got a better idea of just how much that would be.

Then on July 4, a private audio recording was leaked to the New York Times of Rachel Nichols suggesting that ESPN stripped her of her contractual NBA Finals hosting role and gave it to Taylor to make up for their past poor record on diversity.

Marchand reports that Nichols will receive consideration to get her former job back as NBA Finals host with ESPN. Nichols illustrated with her recent social media activity that she has received a great deal of backlash over the Taylor controversy.