Thursday, October 10th, 2013 at 1:40 pm  |  55 responses

Magic Johnson Leaving ESPN’s NBA Coverage

ESPN has announced that the legendary Magic Johnson will no longer be a part of the company’s NBA coverage. Here’s a statement from John Wildhack, ESPN’s Executive Vice President of Production:

Earvin “Magic” Johnson informed us today that he’ll no longer be part of our NBA coverage due to his other commitments. We appreciate Magic’s contributions and wish him well in his future endeavors. We are in the process of determining our NBA commentator roles for the upcoming season.

Here’s what Magic had to say:

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. I will always feel a strong connection to the ESPN family and I enjoyed working with them very much. I’d like to thank John Skipper, John Wildhack, Mark Gross, Kim Belton, Amina Hussein, Mark Summer, Adam Hertzog, Bob Rauscher, Stuart Scott, Mike Wilbon, Jon Barry, Jalen Rose, Bill Simmons, Chris Broussard and the many others at ESPN for the wonderful opportunity to talk about the game I love. They are the best in the business.

And in related news, SI reports that Doris Burke will be joining ESPN’s NBA Countdown:

Doris Burke informally carries the title of Ms. Basketball at ESPN because of her many NBA and college basketball assignments. Now, the well-respected sports broadcaster has landed another basketball gig and it might be her most high profile yet: She’s joining NBA Countdown as a studio analyst.

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. (Her ESPN colleague Hannah Storm hosted NBC’s NBA pregame show from 1997-2002.)

Burke will make her NBA Countdown debut on Nov. 13. Her new assignment, which she said will likely total 11 Wednesdays, is timed with her signing a multiyear contract extension with ESPN.

UPDATE! According to Deadspin, Magic is out because of a power struggle with Bill Simmons, who is also an analyst on Countdown:

ESPN sources tell us that Johnson’s departure was the result of an old-fashioned power war, with one very clear winner: Bill Simmons. “It’s Simmons’s show now,” said one source.

Magic apparently was not at all happy when ESPN told his buddy Michael Wilbon that his role on NBA Countdown would be diminished. He was “booted,” according to one source. Another ESPN insider also said that Magic was “privately seething over the Wilbon thing and in general did not like that Simmons held all the power and influence.” Magic didn’t necessarily need the power, our sources explained; he just didn’t feel like kowtowing to Simmons when he’s, well, Magic Johnson.

“The bottom line is they turned that show over to Simmons,” said our source. “That’s why Doug Collins got hired and why Wilbon was out.”

And that’s a very large part of why Johnson decided to bolt the show at the 11th hour.

  • Add a Comment
  • Share
  • RSS

Tags: ,

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    hold on, he was “thriving” before? that’s news to me.

  • Junior Taylor

    4 freaking mannequins would be a better job than those clowns they have doing the show.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i like Jalen, he’s at least crazy.

  • @iamMrjump

    LOL @disqus_rOeXXBD2qs:disqus @juniortaylor:disqus FOR REAL ! Truth be told I am going to miss Earvin’s commentary he was brilliant – splash of ebonics and history !

  • melvo

    Good for him, those guys on ESPN all suck. Chuck and the crew at TNT are 1000x better.

  • Dfrance

    Yeah Jalen is good, he shouldn’t be the host/moderator tho.

  • Dfrance

    Anyone else read that statement in Magic’s slurry drawl?

  • Junior Taylor

    I used to but not anymore. He has fallen into the same psychobabble and flip-flopping that ESPN is known for.

  • Caboose

    It always disappoints me when ESPN gets good games during the season. TNT literally does EVERYTHING better.

  • Dagger

    To be fair, Simmons and Rose are a hundred times better on Grantland. I guess ESPN sucks the life out of everyone.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I agree he does that but I think that’s a result of him being the host, he has to read the teleprompter and keep a general direction going with whatever his given narrative is.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk


  • Junior Taylor

    Fair enough.

  • 360

    I’m going to watch games on mute with Doris Burke :-/. Why ESPN why

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ Megatron

    If JVG and Reggie were traded i’d completely agree with you

  • spit hot fiyah

    his grantland stuff is way better, his personality shows way more

  • Nick Holden

    So true. They are doing a really good job on that site.

  • Mitya Ya

    I just wish Reggie Miller had “other commitments” as well.

  • Anthony


  • Anthony

    And C Webb….Just seems like he tries a little too hard.

  • Fat Lever

    I really don’t know what Doris Burke brings to the table. She is like the Dan Dierdorf of basketball, pointing out the obvious that’s happening right in front of your eyes. And yet she makes it seem like she just discovered the most exclusive sh!t. I can’t stand her.

  • retrobat

    I’m actually looking forward to seeing what Doris Burke will bring to the table.

  • bball knowledge

    I actually agree with you for once.

  • Mitya Ya

    Nah, I’m cool with Webb. He just needs Payton to complete him.

  • berkamore

    Funny but my first reaction was to think that Simmons would be overjoyed that Magic is out. But I was like:” I don’t wanna to speculate, it’s not fair.” And low and behold, the update confirms that Simmons is the reason why Magic got booted.

    Listen, I used to like reading Simmons when he was a columnist. But when there was the whole Grantland thing, I was like, the guy is trying to build an empire. Now, I have nothing against it but Simmons is a little bit like dessert, not bad in small quantities but you don’t wanna overdo it.

    Oh well, I am just going to stick with TNT. And if Simmons is the future of ESPN, then TNT has nothing to worry about. Goodness, I always felt that Simmons was a bit on a locker room lawyer (put him in a room and he’s just gonna f…k everything up) but didn’t think I would be proven right.

    Oh yeah and Simmons got Magic and Wilbon, booted or demoted. And he got Collins hired. Let’s see, two black guys fired and one white guy hired. Yeah, Simmons, that’s great PR………….

  • shockexchange

    The Shock Exchange had heard about how great Bill Simmons was and his thousands of Twitter followers, yet had never read or heard anything directly from the guy. After seeing him on ESPN this past season, the guy never said anything SE would find remotely interesting. He’s going to get exposed badly, sorta like the guy who flew too close to the sun and got his wings burned off.

  • Dfrance

    Had a whole rant written out, but I read it and it may come off as sexist so I’ll just say, I’m not a Doris Burke fan either.

  • berkamore

    As much as I would love to see that, he may still thrive. His “analyses” are at best “BGOs” (Blinding Glimpses of the obvious), at worst musings about all kinds of random s…t.

    BUT he has a following (I realized that when that….guy was able to get an interview with President Obama. I know big O wouldn’t even look at him if he didn’t have some sort of clout) and he might keep on going for a long time. As for me, to quote a great philosopher, “include me out.” LOL.

  • Dfrance

    IDK what it is about Bill Simmons, but ESPN is scared of that guy. I’m personally not a fan. He’s basically a super fan, he doesn’t provide any expert analysis or insight. He just gives his opinion in that annoying prepubescent voice of his. I don’t want him on my TV

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Bill Simmons Denies Pushing Magic Johnson Out of ESPN

  • shockexchange

    During moments when he was commentating, the Shock Exchange found him to be a distraction. Some people can tell you how heavy the rocks are on the moon, but never been to the moon. Simmons struck SE this way.

  • Dagger

    Let me make a case for Simmons:

    “The Book of Basketball” is apparently pretty damn good. I’ve only read excerpts, but they reveal a great deal of insight.

    Simmons built Grantland. He hired Zach Lowe, Jalen Rose, and some really smart advanced analytics guys. Founding Grantland alone earns him my respect. It’s just an incredible resource: a taste of what ESPN proper should be.

    Simmons also gives great interviews. His conversation with Larry Bird was (predictably) his best, but he has a knack for asking questions that lead to fascinating answers .

    Finally, Simmons is a really engaging writer. As a writer myself, it’s easy to be clear but dry, or lucid but opaque. You might not like his style, but it is a great example of writing that’s colloquial, eloquent, and crystal clear. That’s just hard to do.

  • Dagger

    If those people who never visited the moon (aka a scientist) told you how heavy moon rocks were, would that be any less true coming from them than it would be coming from an astronaut?

    In other words: you aren’t a bad analyst just because you never played or coached in the NBA.

  • shockexchange

    SE doesn’t disagree. During NBA telecasts, Simmons never had anything insightful to say. The Shock Exchange has been watching ESPN since its beginning, when it was quirky and fun, and the commenters were experts in a given sport. THAT ESPN never would have given Bill Simmons the time of day. Dude sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

    Bill Simmons: “Womp, womp, womp … womp, womp, womp, womp, womp, womp.”

    Dagger: “Bill Simmons in on ESPN. He has a huge following. By definition, what he just said has to have been profound.”

    Interpretation: Nothing succeeds like success. What next, a Bill Simmons audiotape distributed exclusively on Samsung smartphones?

  • berkamore

    Yeah the Ronald Reagan of commentators, life (basketball in Simmons’ case) as an anecdote. LOL.

  • berkamore

    I’ve read his book. Anecdotes and personal opinions about B-ball. Now he has the right to have his opinions but there is NOTHING in that book that is remotely earth shattering.

    Now, just to show that I am fair, I think that Zach Lowe is a good writer. I’ve read some of his stuff and it’s very very good. Solid analysis based on facts, rigorous demonstrations and so on.

    Simmons on the other hand, is just a written version of what you could hear if you went to a Sports bar to catch a game. (nothing wrong with it but not exactly brain intensive stuff)

  • Dagger

    You just quoted me as saying pretty much the opposite of what I wrote. But whatever helps you build your predictable straw man arguments.

  • shockexchange

    Nice comeback. SE will simply consider the source.

  • Dagger

    That’s cool, I understand that he’s not for everyone. And to show that I’m fair, I think Simmons is pretty awful on ESPN. The only person I can stand on that network is Hubie Brown.

  • shockexchange

    “I think Simmons is pretty awful on ESPN.” <—– Isn't this what half the people on this thread said before you started with the backtalk?

  • berkamore

    And since we are being fair here, maybe Simmons does that on PURPOSE. He’s not stupid. I understand that he may be writing stuff that is not for me but I can’t deny that he’s been wildly successful doing it. So maybe he knows something. LOL.

  • LP @ThisisEther

    oh no…Not the race card again.

  • LP @ThisisEther

    Magic used to be wrong about so many things, his allegiance to the Lakers clouded his vision on many occasions……

  • berkamore

    The race card, to me, would be to claim that they were fired/demoted BECAUSE they were black. I never said that and I don’t even think that.

    But you have to be mindful of how things LOOK especially in a power struggle. Goodness, they are ON TV. It’s stuff that people can SEE.

    And let’s just say that Simmons’ casting move doesn’t look good at all. Especially in the midst of a power struggle…….

  • Dagger

    You have a wonderfully subtle mind, shockexchange.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    why can’t shock exchange just read? i mean, understanding english would cut away at a lot of the embarrassingly stupid sh*t that you say.
    you wrote a book that you want people to buy…..kind of a good idea to show that you understand how to read.

  • LLC#12

    Doris Burke has an ugly name, an ugly voice, and an ugly face. But she has a better job/probably better earnings than me, so its a tie.

  • Clos1881

    It’s not necessarily a bad thing magic is leaving I know he knows basketball he just doesn’t know how to explain it. I wouldn’t be mad if Simmons left as well not sure what he adds to the show.

  • Harlem_World

    TNT sweeps these clowns. Magic may not be the most succinct analyst, but he gives them credibility at a level the remaining crew just does not have. ESPN and TNT are headed in 2 different directions. ESPN are going in the Hollinger, stats heavy analysis route while TNT are the sports bar debate with guys who played the game and have insights based on real experience. Science against feeling. Not saying the science is wrong, but if I’m sitting down to be entertained while watching the game, I prefer feeling and the infinitely more interesting insights the TNT crew can give about the real life in the NBA (and of course the comedy). As for Simmons – I’ll read his blog or catch Grantland – but him running the show on ESPN? Hell no.

  • King David

    Reggie is TERRIBLE

  • pposse

    any of yall watch East Bound and Down? this kinda reminds of the last episode when Kenny Powers (aka Bill Simmons) ousts the other guy (Magic Johnson) from that sports show

  • kadavour


  • Dfrance

    All of what you said is true, but that doesn’t qualify him to be a studio analyst. I have no problem with his writing work. His Grantland youtube channel, carried by Rose, is great. But he stinks and a studio analyst, period.

    He’s done great basketball related work, but that doesn’t qualify him to be a studio analyst just like having a great NBA career(Shaq, Reggie, etc…) doesn’t.

  • Dagger

    Yeah, I mostly agree. I was just responding to your general hatred of Simmons. But as a studio analyst during the game, I do find him disappointing most of the time.

  • Dfrance

    Lol, its his voice man. Even when he might have something good to say, I can’t take his voice.