Thursday, October 10th, 2013 at 4:35 pm  |  46 responses

Bill Simmons Denies Pushing Magic Johnson Out of ESPN

Shortly after Magic Johnson made the surprise announcement that he was quitting his ESPN NBA analyst gig, a report came out alleging that Johnson left because of some kind of power struggle with Bill Simmons (who, naturally, denies any such thing). Per Variety: “Deadspin reported on Thursday that Johnson had become frustrated that ESPN’s Bill Simmons had taken control of the show over the past year. ‘It’s Simmons’s show now,’ one ESPN source told the site. Simmons, who also serves as the editor-in-chief of Grantland, joined ESPN’s TV coverage in 2012 and just so happens to be a Boston native and vocal opponent of Johnson’s former team, the Los Angeles Lakers. ‘I feel like the biggest problem the show has had over the past couple of years is that everyone was hanging on Magic’s every word,’ Simmons said in an interview last year in Entertainment Weekly. ‘Nobody was challenging him.’ Johnson, an active businessman since retiring in 1991, is part of the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group and also operates a production company, owns several movie theaters and restaurants.”

Related: Analyze This: Having ex-NBA players and coaches in the broadcast booth is more popular than ever

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  • berkamore

    Yeah sure. Like Magic is just going to make things up. Magic has been in the public eye for a long time and if anything, we know that he doesn’t need an excuse to walk away from something he doesn’t like. Magic can actually be quite blunt about it.

    No, Simmons should just be a man and not a wimp. Power struggles are part of life. Just be upfront about it and don’t stab somebody in the back. To quote the great late Lew Wasserman: “If you are going to stab, stab openly.” Don’t a p…y.

    Guys like Simmons are the worst because they can never look at you the eye and fight. But as soon as you leave the room, mmmmmmmmmmm, prepare to be stabbed.

  • Dagger

    Simmons might very well be lying, but remember that Magic hasn’t actually said anything. Right now, all we have is rumors, and we know that Magic and Simmons were at least tight for a while.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    It doesn’t really make sense that Bill Simmons would carry more weight in the TV universe than Magic Johnson in the first place.

  • berkamore

    Good point. Let’s see what Magic has to say about it. Should be interesting.

  • Ben Ireland

    Why does no-one get that? ESPN could kick Simmons off air and he’d still be a phenomenally popular writer. Magic may have just… GASP… had other commitments!!!!

  • shawnkemp4prez

    I like the implication that Simmons’ Celtics fanhood may have played a role lol. I dunno about all this…

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i have no idea. but i’m sure it would hurt their TV broadcast a lot more to lose Johnson than Simmons.
    oh, and also, Simmons doesn’t like the TV stuff. Which he is very open about.

  • Larry

    I loved Magic Johnson the player, Magic Johnson studio host—well that was a different matter. As for Simmons, I’m unsure if he played a hand in Magic leaving. It would really be okay with me if Simmons left too.

  • LakeShow

    You’re right. Even though BS is much, much better than him at it.

  • berkamore


    Magic’s agent denied the whole thing. His agent……….ROFL. And Simmons is in full damage control mode, tweeting and emailing the press.

    Yeah, there is no doubt in my mind that Simmons is guilty as charged. (And panicking because s…t is blowing up in his face). ROFL.

  • Ben Ireland

    Yeah, I’m biased, I love Simmons. But he’s not good on tv, he’s absolutely toilet humour, and stuff ESPN can’t air without the warnings, which obv can’t happen live. In fact the best countdown bits were the behind the scenes clips on the Grantland Channel. I never liked Countdown at all though, ESPN is just good cos JVG is amazing. Doug Collins is good too though.

  • RedDragon10

    What they need is a guy like stuart scott back leading the analysis. Shows do better with a host leading the discussion, a la EJ and the TNT crew who are untouchable.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    well, hopefully they reign in the show a bit…i think the total lack of structure is the big problem. Jalen Rose should not be the equivalent to Ernie Johnson, he’s supposed to be ESPN’s Charles Barkley.
    it’s almost like Vinny Del Negro coaches the ESPN broadcast team, while Doc Rivers is coaching over at TNT.

  • Ben Ireland

    I like Simmons, I like Jalen, but they need a decent host. Jalen’s best telling jokes. And Wilbon’s too annoying to do it. But I can’t think who on ESPN could do the job… Ruseillo? He might be too snarky to pull it off. Stu Scott’s a nice call. But guys like WIlbon and Broussard are just heads up their own asses, and love their “sources” to do it. It needs a dedicated moderator. Also, ESPN should buy Cwebb, he’s being underused criminally on TNT. He’s fantastic, and paired with Jalen? Priceless.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i fear that they will try and use Rembert, even though Simmons doesn’t carry as much weight as Magic (TV Wise) – with Magic out? he pretty much has the biggest say. And Rembert is his boy.

  • Ben Ireland

    I like Rembert, but he’s a cultural writer if that makes sense. Not a sports centric one in my opinion. I think his role on Grantland right now is perfect for him (and the coolest job ever!)
    He’d be horrible trying to control Bill and Jalen… Just wouldn’t work.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    yeah, that’s why i’m in fear.

  • Ben Ireland

    ESPN really has no-one who could do it. Cari Champion maybe? But she’s in a pretty high profile role.
    Jay who used to do First Take might be good, but he’s SC now isn’t he?
    Doris Burke would be PERFECT but she won’t let herself be relegated to that role, nor should she.

  • berkamore

    You made a lot of good points and made me realize how good Earnie Johnson of TNT really is. He makes it look easy but it actually ain’t. I almost feel that I owe him an apology or something. LOL.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    well Scott Van Pelt is the best option imo. But idk if he’d be willing to do that. he handles the host/moderator role really really well though, or at least seems to.

  • Ben Ireland

    I thought SVP, but I don’t know if he’d be good for that show. He’s used to interviewing as a kind of leader role, if you get me, here he’d be a more delicate guiding hand (presumably). I think he’s a little too high profile as well, his radio show is pretty popular. Tho I guess he could do both?

  • Dagger

    It doesn’t take much evidence for you to make up your mind.

  • berkamore

    I just may have a little more experience dealing with human beings than you. And some situations may seem new but they already happened many times before.

    Knowing when somebody is lying is quite simple if you have a little bit of experience dealing with people. And no, they are not going to admit stuff. ROFL. But anyway, you think what you want. This is a free country.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    He’s no more high profile then Ernie Johnson…I just don’t know if ESPN puts as much money into their show, that’s probably the main reason they are behind. Lol

  • Tad

    Magic is gonna be on Simmon’s podcast next week. So I guess they’re not beefing.

  • berkamore

    Damage control. Simmons is working OT to maintain his public image (superfan who loves the game, not locker room lawyer expert at backstabbing) and Magic is too smart to burn bridges with ESPN. (ESPN belongs to Disney ($42 billion in sales btw) and Simmons does have some clout over there). Like I said before, nothing really new under the sun. Happened many times before.

  • Clos1881

    Not a fan of Simmons or magic as on air personality espns countdown show is terrible as a whole. They need bill Walton.

  • Dagger

    It’s always more convincing when you justify your opinion with something other than “I know better.”

    All we really know here is that:

    1. Magic is leaving the show.
    2. Some “insider” wants us to blame Simmons.
    3. Simmons and Magic were friends. Magic is doing a podcast with Simmons and is complimenting Simmons on Twitter.
    4. Magic’s agent and Simmons both deny that Simmons is to blame. Magic has not explicitly said anything one way or another.

    It’s entirely possible that Simmons is to blame. But it doesn’t seem like there’s nearly enough evidence one way or another to make a conclusion.

  • berkamore

    Listen, you believe what you want. That’s why we have bets, people disagree. And that’s perfectly fine.

  • Damjan

    I’m not sure if basketball fans can fully respect and appreciate what Bill Simmons has done for the sports experience (mostly basketball). Think what you may about him as an analyst or even as an opinion writer but his list of trying new things and often pulling them off successfully has lead to a much better sports viewing/following experience imo. Just to name a few things which I attribute to BS and find very entertaining:

    1) 30 for 30 series: creative force behind, addresses the need for good sports documentaries
    2) best basketball podcast imo + the rare person that has a semi successful podcast
    3) greater coverage of stats and advanced stats in sports
    4) the ‘sports guy’ / superfan character – media analysis from the pov of a fan / buddy
    5) greater coverage analysis of sports management / marketing / forces behind the game
    6) Has unparalleled access for a sports writer. Has been having nearly annual interviews with DStern, plus interviews with Obama, Magic, Bird etc. (all on his podcast no less!)

    7) Fusing pop culture and sports (i.e. Grantland – a gem of a site)

    Seriously pretty good work for a former blogger, and don’t underestimate his clout. If ESPN was to ever break ties with Simmons I think my personal traffic to their site would go down by 90%. As amazing as it sounds I think there’s probably only 10 or so NBA teams who I’d rather watch than read a Simmons column, podcast or watch a well done piece on the Grantland channel. He’s seriously a pretty big part of following the NBA.

    I find it hard to believe that people think that Simmons is behind this. Their friendship seems genuine on-air and Simmons regularly pays tribute to Magic, even though he may have tongue-in-cheek comment about the Celts. Plus Magic has been on and off tv for a while now and he has one of the most successful post-playing careers, so it is extremely plausible that he has other commitments.

    Also it’s funny that people diss Simmons’ media career and writing style, but then are ready to believe a hastily put together article such as this. Paradox much? (Although I’m by know way hinting that Simmons’ strength is in checking the accuracy of his sources. He is still very much a blogger at heart.)

  • Shifty

    Couldn’t agree more.Has no one seen how well him and Magic get on behind the scenes? Also I listen to his podcasts religiously.

  • Dagger

    Well, you put that much better than I could. Thank you.

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    How about scoop jackson?

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    What about scoop jackson?

  • Damjan

    Scoop Jackson is up there as well and also was one of the more original voices as well as someone who gave his writing a ‘persona’ and mixed elements of gonzo journalism into his sports writing. Definitely enjoyed reading him when he was a contributor for Slam. And like Simmons you also felt a real passion in his writing and for the game of basketball as well. Unfortunately, Scoop’s work hasn’t flourished at ESPN and his writing seems to have been compromised since he became a Disney employee (although I have to say I haven’t read much of his work in the last 10 years, so I may be wrong). He also hasn’t leveraged new media and other platforms nearly as well as Simmons. Unfortunately as great as Scoop was his best work is probably behind him, which is not the case with Simmons.

    Simmons too probably has a short window where he will enjoy as much clout as he does now, unless he keeps reinventing himself, and coming up with new original concepts, which may be impossible – and he too will probably be surpassed (although hopefully not by Zach Lowe – who has interesting insights but has a horribly drab writing style).

    There’s no shame in being the best writer for a few years and then giving up the throne, just like in the NBA. Scoop from memory had the same effect as Simmons does now (although wildly different styles :-) ) and from memory also introduced original aspects in sports writing that we now take for granted (i.e. covering kicks etc, fusing sports and politics / activism).

    But yeah it would be great if Scoop could go back to being a force and generating original and great content on the regular, just don’t see it happening while he is still being moderated by ESPN

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    why do you think ESPN has prevented scoop from having that voice he had with slam.

  • king shhh

    They should get Allen Iverson he wood be great lol he’s got nothing to do right plus he needs the money

  • Chb

    So the guy (BS) that they are beeping on air, have radical views on Things and almost got fired 3 times last year is runnin´ sh**? I dont buy that.

    Magic has a lot of ventures going on and has (IMO) lost his egde – that might be a concern in the matter. His fun lovin attitude is just boring in the long run.
    I could not care less Wilbon takes a hike. He is the most annoying person covering NBA.
    Besides, you cannot have 4 Guys covering a game, if they do not disagree or complement each other – that is just bad TV.

  • Gabriel

    That show is terrible …if you had the Lakers Mascot the Bulls Mascot and the Celtics Mascot doing the show they would be just as informative more entertaining and less bias

  • Guest

    You know, one of the best interviews I’ve seen Simmons do was the one with Louis CK because he was just being an inquisitive human being and not trying to be too funny or snarky. If you haven’t seen it you should check it out:


  • catty14

    Am I , a little old lady, the only one to speak the truth? Johnson is dumb. Plain and simple. He was a great basketball player but if you ever follow his predictions, his commentary is just not at all bright or on target. Sorry if I have offended Magic lovers but over the years it has been proven true; and he has favorites and doesn’t see the forest for the trees either. No loss in my book.

  • Terrell

    I think Doris has already been chosen for this role now.

  • Truthspeaker

    Until Magic comes out and says this is not true, I believe it.

  • Ben Ireland

    Thanks, will do man!

  • Mars

    Truth be told, the majority of die-hard hoops fans can do without Magic. Simmons and Jalen already click perfectly, so giving someone else a chance makes perfect sense here. I think the whole “Boston” versus “LA” noise is valid though considering the way Magic handled Doc to the Clippers and Lakers fallout certainly did not help.

  • Turk420

    I love Bill simmons addition! Magic, although a LEGEND! He was turrible at talking about the NBA. He sounds very uneducated while speaking and reading que cards. Jalen is much better. Berry was horrible. Michael Redd? OH St. Grad who is probably smart , a former all star and gold medal holder. Mike needs work. TMAC is with NBATV. Iverson? He would be the best! lol