There’s plenty of discussion out there about possible changes to ESPN’s NBA Countdown, and that all started because Sports by Brooks’ Brooks Melchior wrote a pieceWednesday citing multiple sources saying Michelle Beadle will not return as host next year, and Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups will not return as full-time analysts (but Jalen Rose will). That piece also cites multiple sources saying “ESPN on-air talents Maria Taylor and Rachel Nichols are under consideration to take over as host of Countdown.”
However, there are lots of reasons for some skepticism here.
Putting aside the discussion of the credibility of this report for a moment, let’s talk about if this is a reasonable move for ESPN. It would be just the latest change to Countdown, which they moved to Bristol and then to New York during the second half of last year to coincide with Beadle moving cross-country for Get Up, and which they then sent back to Los Angeles before the start of the 2018-19 season. That came with Beadle leaving Get Up and signing a multi-year contract extension with ESPN to “return to Los Angeles to focus on the NBA.” So on that front alone, it would seem curious to replace Beadle, given that she’s just finishing her third season in the host role and that she just signed a contract extension.
Also, Nichols and Taylor both have prominent roles of their own (Nichols as the host of The Jump, Taylor as a contributor to Get Up, as the host of College Football Live, as a sideline reporter for college football and men’s college basketball broadcasts, and as an analyst for women’s college basketball and volleyball broadcasts). Tabbing either of them for Countdown would create a further shuffle. And while ESPN’s done those kinds of shuffles in the past, this one would seem particularly odd considering that Nichols and Taylor both seem to be finding success in their current roles, and that there isn’t an obvious need to make a change.
There’s also a discussion to be had about if further changes would help Countdown, as many of the past issues with the show have stemmed from significant turnover. Off-again on-again off-again appearances from Magic Johnson didn’t help much, and the show also changed significantly following Bill Simmons’ 2014 exit for the short-lived Grantland Basketball Show. Beadle took over as the full-time Countdown host from Sage Steele in 2017, and the show has seemed to find more of an identity since then. Shaking that up without an obvious reason to do so would seem like an unusual move, and one that could easily make things worse.