Skip to main content
Larry Brown Sports Tagline. Brown Bag it, Baby.
#pounditSunday, October 2, 2022

Articles tagged: ESPN

Al Michaels reportedly undecided on future despite Amazon talk

Al Michaels in a suit and tie

Al Michaels is expected to leave NBC when his contract with the network expires later this year, and the broadcasting legend has a major decision to make ahead of the 2022 NFL season.

A report from five months ago claimed Michaels was in deep discussions with Amazon about becoming the lead play-by-play announcer for “Thursday Night Football.” The streaming giant will have exclusive rights to the NFL’s Thursday package beginning next season. We haven’t heard much about Michaels closing in on a deal with Amazon since. That could be because the 77-year-old has not made up his mind.

According to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, Michaels is still contemplating his future. He may have more to think about now that ESPN has lured Troy Aikman away from FOX with a massive contract.

Michaels will likely have his choice between ESPN and Amazon. If Buck leaves FOX, which seems unlikely, Michaels may have a third suitor.

Michaels called “Monday Night Football” on ABC/ESPN from 1986 to 2005. The network is said to have interest in bringing him back. Pairing Michaels with Aikman would give ESPN the powerhouse booth that it hasn’t had in years.

It’s hard to imagine Michaels, who is one of the greatest play-by-play broadcasters of all time, finishing his career with Amazon. Most NFL fans would probably rather see him with Aikman on “Monday Night Football.”

Photo: Aug 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Network television commentator Al Michaels before the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Jeter could land prominent job after Marlins exit?

Derek Jeter

It may not take very long for Derek Jeter to land back in the spotlight after his stunning departure from the Miami Marlins this week.

The retired New York Yankees great shocked the baseball world on Monday by announcing that he was stepping down as Marlins CEO and selling his stake in the team. Jeter elaborated on the decision in a pensive statement.

It turns out though that Jeter’s decision may have also been motivated by the opportunities that lie ahead for him. Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reported Monday that ESPN would “love” to get into business with the 14-time All-Star. The report notes that ESPN has already established a relationship with Jeter, having produced a multipart documentary about Jeter (entitled “The Captain”) that will air later this year. ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro is also a big Yankees fan, McCarthy adds.

The Worldwide Leader has previously hired several ex-Yankees players to work baseball telecasts, including Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Aaron Boone. Rodriguez specifically is still with ESPN and is slated to team up with Michael Kay for a “Kay-Rod” alternate MLB telecast in the theme of ESPN’s “ManningCast” with Peyton and Eli Manning. McCarthy notes that a similar “JeterCast” could be a possibility for Jeter.

The former World Series MVP Jeter was known for his charisma as a player and has already gotten involved in some other media ventures since retiring. A move to the booth could be the next logical step for Jeter now that he no longer has the Marlins to worry about.

Photo: Oct 3, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter addresses the media at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Could ESPN try to hire away Joe Buck too?

Joe Buck smiles

ESPN is making a very big move in the broadcasting world and apparently close to hiring Troy Aikman away from FOX to work on “Monday Night Football.” They may not stop there.

The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reported Wednesday night that Aikman is close to leaving FOX for ESPN to become their main analyst on MNF. There has been chatter for a while that Aikman could leave FOX. He apparently was seeking more money after seeing how much Tony Romo was paid by CBS.

But if ESPN indeed lands Aikman, they could also try to land his longtime broadcasting partner.

Marchand reports that ESPN could also make a run at Joe Buck. Buck’s contract apparently expires in a year and he could ask for permission to get out of his deal with FOX early.

Buck making an exit from FOX for ESPN might not be quite as appealing.

The 52-year-old also does play-by-play for FOX’s MLB coverage, including most notably, announcing the World Series. FOX puts Buck on the biggest stage for MLB and for the NFL. ESPN has a ton of visibility and games, but they can’t match the World Series.

Buck has been with FOX since 1994. Seeing him leave for ESPN would be nothing short of stunning.

Photo: Jan 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; FOX analyst Joe Buck before the NFC Divisional Playoff football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Troy Aikman likely to leave FOX for ESPN

Troy Aikman in a suit

The NFL broadcasting scene appears poised for a massive shake-up, as Troy Aikman is reportedly set to leave FOX Sports.

Aikman is on the verge of departing FOX to join ESPN as the lead analyst for “Monday Night Football,” according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post. Marchand reports Aikman is set to get an enormous payday for making the move. Aikman’s ESPN contract reportedly will likely match or exceed the 10-years and $180 million CBS gave Tony Romo.

There is no clarity on what this means for Steve Levy, who has handled play-by-play on “Monday Night Football” for the last two seasons. Marchand appears to suggest that Levy is likely out, with ESPN eyeing a bigger name to pair with Aikman. Marchand also notes that Al Michaels, who is departing NBC, had been in negotiations with Amazon for its Thursday package, and had hoped to be paired with Aikman. Whether ESPN would pursue Michaels to pair with Aikman is unclear, though previous reports suggested the network has at least considered it.

Aikman’s contract with FOX expired at the end of the season. He had been with the network for 20 years, essentially since retiring from the NFL. This definitely comes as a shock, but Aikman himself hinted at the possibility during the playoffs.

Photo: Nov 21, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys former quarterback Troy Aikman attends the NFL game between the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ja Morant takes shot at ESPN for disrespecting Grizzlies

Ja Morant dribbles

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant took an opportunity to call out The Worldwide Leader after his team’s latest victory on Wednesday.

The Grizzlies played the San Antonio Spurs in a contest that was originally supposed to air on ESPN. However, the network made a late decision to flex out the game in favor of airing the Miami Heat-New York Knicks matchup.

Memphis went on to win 118-110 as Morant poured in 41 points, tying his season-high. After the game, Morant took a swipe at ESPN.

“Shoutout to whoever took us off TV,” he said, according to Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. “Appreciate you for that. That game right there was for you too.”

To make matters worse for ESPN, the Heat-Knicks game was not especially entertaining. The Heat got out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, and the Knicks never got any closer, losing in a 110-96 blowout.

Granted, you can’t really fault ESPN for expecting a Miami-New York game to get better ratings than a Memphis-San Antonio game. But the Grizzlies, who are now 33-17 on the season, quickly reminded ESPN that they are legitimately one of the best teams in the NBA and deserve their respect. With the highlights Morant in particular produces on a nightly basis, Memphis should probably be a national television staple at this point.

Photo: Nelson Chenault-USA Today Sports

ESPN announcers for Chiefs-Broncos game had fans so confused

Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit

Sports fans welcomed having an NFL game played on a Saturday. But many were thrown off by the announcing team for the game.

ABC/ESPN aired Saturday’s Week 18 contest between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. The announcing team was Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, who form ESPN’s No. 1 announcing team for college football.

Fans are used to hearing the duo call the big Saturday evening college football game each week, so hearing them on an NFL game was odd. Take a look at some of the reactions:

Though it was strange hearing the biggest voices in college football calling an NFL game, many fans agreed that the two still sounded great. Even if we’re not used to them calling NFL games, that doesn’t change that Fowler and Herbstreit still form an excellent duo for football games.

The two men will be on the call for the national championship game on Monday night between Alabama and Georgia.

Rachel Nichols officially out at ESPN

Rachel Nichols

The Rachel Nichols era at ESPN is officially over.

Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reported on Tuesday that Nichols has reached a settlement agreement with ESPN to terminate their working relationship. She is now free to pursue other opportunities immediately.

Nichols first worked for ESPN from 2004 to 2013, appearing on a number of NFL and NBA shows. After a three-year departure, she returned to ESPN in 2016 and became one of their top NBA personalities, including hosting her own show “The Jump.” But Nichols’ relationship with the network became strained last year over leaked comments that she made about ex-ESPN colleague Maria Taylor.

Nichols was ultimately removed from all of ESPN’s NBA programming, and her show “The Jump” was cancelled (it has since been replaced by the show “NBA Today” with new hosts). Marchand adds that Nichols had one year left on her contract at ESPN but that the network had no intention of using her after her removal. She was making in the range of $1.5 million to $2 million per year at ESPN, Marchand says.

Now that Nichols is no longer with ESPN, we already know of one potential job opportunity that may be awaiting her.

Mar 19, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; truTV broadcaster Rachel Nichols (center) interviews Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller (left) against the Texas Southern Tigers during the first half in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN made funny graphics screw-up to start ‘Monday Night Football’

ESPN Ian Book graphic

ESPN got a little thrown off introducing “Monday Night Football” between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints.

One of the key stories leading up to the game was New Orleans’ quarterback situation. With both Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill in COVID protocols, rookie Ian Book had to make the start for the Saints. In addition, coach Sean Payton was returning to the sideline after missing last week’s game due to protocols.

Naturally, ESPN went with the split screen of both Payton and Book at the top of the telecast. There was just one problem: they didn’t quite get the chyron right.

Well, not quite, although the Saints might have been getting close to having to use Payton at quarterback Monday night.

The Saints have not been shy about roasting people for what they put on TV during their games. Maybe we’ll hear about this one later.

LeBron James tried to get ESPN personality fired?

LeBron James in his Lakers uniform

ESPN has often been criticized for a perceived bias towards LeBron James. It turns out though that James may have actually tried to see just how much influence he had with the network.

Michelle Beadle of The Athletic said in an episode of her “What Did I Miss?” podcast this week that the Los Angeles Lakers star tried to get her fired from ESPN. Beadle’s guest on the podcast, retired Hall of Famer and ex-ESPN host Paul Pierce, brought up that there was a rumor about James supposedly doing so.

“He tried,” replied Beadle. “He did try, yep. He did try to do that. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m honored that I’m even on your mind. Thank you very much, sir. That’s a weird place for me to be.’

“So, my stuff with him started out not personal,” Beadle continued. “I made fun of ‘The Decision’ like 400,000 other talking heads did at the time, and I think for some reason, that was it. So, it wasn’t personal to begin with it. It’s obviously, now it will always be personal, but it is what it is.”

Beadle began at ESPN in 2009 as a co-host of the show “SportsNation” and quickly worked her way up the ranks. She eventually got her own podcast on the network and served as a guest host for several different ESPN programs. Beadle briefly left ESPN to work at NBC from 2012 to 2014 before returning to The Worldwide Leader. She began hosting “NBA Countdown” in 2016 and joined the crew of the show “Get Up!” in 2018. Beadle’s time at ESPN ended in 2019 when she was removed from “NBA Countdown” and eventually agreed to a buyout with the network.

Since Beadle specifically mentioned “The Decision,” James’ infamous ESPN special in 2010 where he announced that he was joining the Miami Heat, it seems likely that James’ alleged efforts to get her fired occurred during her first stint at the network. That would have been long before Beadle became as well-known as she would later be.

Perhaps there is more to the story than Beadle simply clowning James for “The Decision,” which every sports analyst everywhere did indeed do at the time. But we do know that Beadle has also drawn the ire of other superstar athletes before.

H/T Lakers Daily

Shaq explains why he chose to work for TNT over ESPN

Shaq sitting courtside

Shaquille O’Neal decided over a decade ago that he would join TNT as an analyst. He also had a major offer from ESPN at the time, but the Hall of Famer says there is one main reason he chose TNT — they didn’t need him.

During an appearance the “Marchand and Ourand” sports media podcast this week, Shaq was asked how he decided to work for TNT in 2011 over ESPN. He said he met with David Levy, the former president of TNT parent company Turner, and felt more comfortable with his pitch than ESPN’s after Levy explained that O’Neal would not have to carry any show with TNT.

“Mr. Levy came to my house and he said, ‘We don’t need you, but we would like to have you,'” Shaq recalled. “ESPN was saying we need you. So, I was thinking if I have a bad day at Turner, I’m gonna be OK. But if I have a bad day at ESPN, it can only get worse.”

That wasn’t the only reason. Shaq said working for Turner allowed him to be close to his family in Orlando. He has also always had tremendous respect for Ernie Johnson.

“Listen, I have a different type of love for Ernie Johnson,” Shaq said. “Ernie Johnson was a guy that I used to watch on TV. He actually came to my house when I was 17 years old to interview me. I love his voice. I love how he treats people.

“I’m not as good as Ernie. So, me being by myself, I’m gonna have to carry. I don’t think my ADHD would allow me to carry a show by myself. Being a teammate on a great team I think has done well for us. … Just being one of the guys is something I enjoy, rather than trying to be the guy. I could never do what Ernie does.”

While he did not go into specifics, it sounds like ESPN pitched Shaq on the idea of being the center of its NBA coverage. He felt more comfortable joining Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. It goes without saying that the decision worked out, as “Inside the NBA” has won numerous Emmy Awards and is one of the best sports studio shows ever.

We don’t know whom Shaq would be working alongside right now if he took the ESPN job. What we do know is that there’s no way he would have the same chemistry with that person that he has with Barkley.

Photo: Mar 10, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; NBA former player Shaquille O’Neal watches a game between the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors in the third quarter at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports