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.