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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The current NBA on ESPN logo, used since 2016.
GenreNBA game telecasts
StarringVarious personalities (see below)
Country of originUnited States
Running time150 minutes or until game ends
Original release
Release1982 (1982) –
1984 (1984)
ReleaseOctober 30, 2002 (2002-10-30) –
present (present)

The NBA on ESPN is the branding used for the presentation of National Basketball Association (NBA) games on the ESPN family of networks. The ESPN cable network first televised NBA games from 1982 until 1984, and has been airing games currently since the 2002–03 NBA season. ESPN2 began airing a limited schedule of NBA games in 2002. ABC began televising NBA games under full ESPN production in 2006 (ABC Sports aired NBA games under the title of the NBA on ABC from 2002 to 2006). On October 6, 2014, ESPN and the NBA renewed their agreement through 2025.[1][2]

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On January 30, 1982, the NBA reached a two-year agreement with ESPN to broadcast the league's 40 regular season and 10 playoff games from 1982–83 until 1983–84.[3][4][5]

Initially from 1982-83 until 1983-84, ESPN aired the league's regular season games every Sunday.[3]


On January 22, 2002, the NBA signed an initial six-year agreement with The Walt Disney Company that allowed ABC and its sister network ESPN (of which Disney owned an 80% stake) to broadcast the league's 75 regular season and 24 playoff games.[6][7] Currently, ESPN airs games on Wednesdays and Fridays, with select games broadcast on ESPN or ABC on select Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, as well as much of the Christmas Day games. ESPN/ABC also holds the exclusive rights to air the Eastern Conference Finals on even-numbered years (opposite TNT's Western Conference Finals telecast), the Western Conference Finals on odd-numbered years (opposite TNT's Eastern Conference Finals telecast). In contrast, ABC holds the exclusive broadcast rights to the NBA Finals. ESPN/ABC also has the rights to air the NBA draft.

In June 2007, the NBA renewed its television agreement with ESPN and ABC through 2016.[8] This agreement was later renewed again through 2025 in 2014.[1][2]


ESPN's best-known NBA broadcast team consists of Mike Breen on play-by-play, with Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson as analysts. The trio called 15 NBA Finals together from 2007 to 2011, and again from 2014 to 2023. Other notable commentators throughout the years include Al Michaels, Mark Jones, Dave Pasch, Mike Tirico, Adam Amin, Ryan Ruocco, Hubie Brown, Richard Jefferson, JJ Redick, among others. Notable sideline reporters include Michele Tafoya, Doris Burke (later a game analyst), Israel Gutierrez, Rachel Nichols, Lisa Salters, Malika Andrews, Cassidy Hubbarth, Ros Gold-Onwude, Jorge Sedano, among others.

Since the 2017–18 season, Doris Burke became a regular analyst for the NBA on ESPN, replacing Doug Collins.[9]

The 2021–22 season marked the addition of Beth Mowins to the roster of play-by-play commentators. She is the first woman to call an NBA regular season (and playoff) game.[10] In the same season, JJ Redick joined the crew as analyst following his retirement from playing basketball.[11] Since 2022, all-women-led broadcasts have occurred once every season, with Beth Mowins and Doris Burke as commentators in these cases.[12][13]

In August 2023, as part of a shakeup following the company's layoffs of many of its employees and personalities,[14] ESPN announced major changes in its commentator lineup for the 2023–24 season. The new lead broadcast team consists of Mike Breen, Doris Burke, and former NBA coach Doc Rivers. Burke will become the first female TV analyst in a major men's championship round.[15] Burke and Rivers replace lead analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Jackson, who were laid off by the network after the 2023 NBA Finals.[16][17][18] Additionally, a second core broadcast team consisting of Ryan Ruocco, JJ Redick, and Richard Jefferson was formed. The team calls the NBA Sunday Showcase games and works together for other marquee events throughout the season and into the playoffs. The trio debuted during the opening week of the regular season rather than the preseason, due to Ruocco's assignment for the 2023 WNBA Finals. The first game they called was the game between the visiting Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs, notable for 2023 first draft pick Victor Wembanyama's regular season debut. That same year, Bob Myers joined the broadcast team as game analyst.[19] After Rivers was hired as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks in January 2024, Redick joined Breen and Burke on the lead team.[20]

Pre Game Show

NBA Countdown, previously NBA Shootaround, is ESPN's main studio program, airing before each game telecast. ESPN's in-game studio programs originally consisted of Kevin Frazier and Tim Hardaway on Fridays with Stuart Scott replacing Frazier on Wednesdays. After horrible reviews for Hardaway, ESPN brought in Greg Anthony to replace him on Friday nights. Frazier and Anthony became ESPN's main studio team and worked most of the playoffs. For the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals, ESPN used ABC's halftime team of Mike Tirico and Sean Elliott for all the games.

2003–04 was the first year of the longest-tenured ESPN studio team. Frazier and Anthony were joined by controversial writer Stephen A. Smith and NBA legend Bill Laimbeer. Laimbeer, departing to continue coaching in the WNBA, was replaced by Tim Legler during the 2004 NBA Playoffs. Smith, Legler and Anthony were joined by John Saunders (replacing Frazier, who left to host Entertainment Tonight) from late 2004 to the end of the 2005–2006 season.

ESPN's studio team was generally more criticized[21] than praised. After the Pacers–Pistons brawl, ESPN's studio team came under severe criticism, both by the media[22] and by ESPN itself[23] for their stance regarding the actions of Indiana Pacer Ron Artest (who entered the stands to confront a fan, sparking the melee). Saunders came down hard on Detroit fans, referring to them as "punks," while Anthony and Legler defended Artest.

For the 2006-07 NBA season, Saunders was replaced by Fred Hickman, with the remaining team left intact.[24] Previous reports by The Big and The New York Post indicated that Anthony, Legler and Smith along with Saunders would be replaced by Dan Patrick, Michael Wilbon and Mark Jackson.[25] Smith's role was significantly reduced, as he would no longer appear in studio with Hickman, Legler and Anthony, instead appearing during "The A List", a segment during the pregame show.

The program was hosted by either Hannah Storm, Stuart Scott or Mark Jones, alongside analysts Chris Mullin, Jalen Rose, Jamal Mashburn, Jon Barry and Michael Wilbon.

The program was also moved from ABC-owned studios at Times Square in New York City to ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.

The format changed for the 2011–2012 season. The show moved from Bristol to ESPN's West Coast headquarters in Los Angeles. Storm, Scott and Jones were dropped from the program and the host role abandoned. Instead, four analysts (Wilbon, Barry, Magic Johnson, and Chris Broussard) discuss scores, games, and other topics in more of a free form style than previously used.

In 2023, as part of major changes to its commentary team, Malika Andrews became the new lead host of NBA Countdown.[19]


ESPN's highest rated NBA game was Game 5 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons. The game scored a 5.5 cable Nielsen rating, with nearly five million viewers. To put that in context, Monday Night Football on ESPN posted ratings of 9+ in two of its first three telecasts. ESPN's highest rated regular season contest was the first matchup between Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming. The game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets scored a 3.82 cable Nielsen rating.

Generally, ESPN's regular season ratings are the same as competitor TNT's. During the playoffs, TNT has higher ratings, especially during the Conference Finals (from 2003 to 2005, TNT's Conference Final ratings were at least a full ratings point higher than ESPN's: 4.6 to 2.8 in 2003, 6.3 to 3.8 in 2004 and 5.0 to 4.0 in 2005). In 2006, for the first time ever, ESPN's Conference Final coverage averaged higher ratings than TNT's, averaging a 4.8 to TNT's 4.6.


ESPN2 aired a handful of NBA regular season games from 2002 to 2006, typically in January, when prime time golf tournaments preempted coverage on ESPN. On several occasions, ESPN2 would air the first game of a doubleheader, while ESPN air the second game. Starting with the 2006–2007 season, regular season games on ESPN2 were discontinued. During the playoffs, ESPN2 airs games that otherwise would not have appeared on any outlet other than NBA TV, mostly on Friday nights and only during the first round.

ESPN2 NBA coverage is mostly made up of studio shows, notably NBA Coast to Coast. NBA Coast to Coast, formerly known as NBA Fastbreak Tuesday and NBA Nation, is a two-hour long Tuesday night studio show that features live cut-ins to games throughout the league. In addition to Coast to Coast, ESPN2 airs several editions of NBA Fastbreak, ESPN's NBA oriented highlight show.

Despite airing fewer than forty NBA games in its eleven years of existence, ESPN2 did televise NBA legend Michael Jordan's final game in Chicago in January 2003.

ESPN2 also aired Kobe Bryant's final game against the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016.

ESPN2 also aired a LeBron James potential record breaking game on February 3, 2023[26]

ESPN2 is the primary outlet for ESPN WNBA coverage, televising regular season games, the WNBA Finals and the WNBA draft. WNBA Shootaround, the WNBA equivalent of ESPN's NBA pregame show, airs sporadically on the network, typically before presentations of WNBA Tuesday.

Beginning with the 2022–23 season, ESPN2 began airing alternate presentations of select NBA games in a similar vein to Manningcast and KayRod Cast during Monday Night Football and Sunday Night Baseball respectively, with Stephen A. Smith as host. The series was titled NBA in Stephen A.'s World.

See also


  1. ^ a b "NBA extends partnership with Turner Broadcasting, Disney" (Press release). National Basketball Association. October 6, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "NBA extends television deals". October 7, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2022.
  3. ^ a b "ESPN Acquires Rights to NBA Games" (Press release). ESPN. January 30, 1982. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  4. ^ "ESPN, Inc.: 1982 in Review". ESPN Pressroom. January 2, 1983. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  5. ^ "Cable sports news" (PDF). Broadcasting. February 8, 1982. Retrieved August 14, 2021 – via World Radio History.
  6. ^ "ESPN, ABC And NBA Reach Six-Year Agreement 100-Plus Games Annually On ABC Sports, ESPN, ESPN2 NBA Finals On ABC" (Press release). The Walt Disney Company. January 22, 2002. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  7. ^ "NBA TV deal moves to ABC, ESPN". ESPN. January 22, 2002. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  8. ^ "NBA Extends and Expands Partnerships". National Basketball Association. June 27, 2007. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
  9. ^ "ESPN's Doris Burke Will Be the First Woman in National Role As a Regular NBA Game Analyst". Sports Illustrated. September 25, 2017.
  10. ^ "ESPN Play-by-Play Commentator Beth Mowins to Become the First Woman to Call an NBA Regular-Season Game on ESPN This Friday" (Press release). Bristol: ESPN. December 2, 2021. Retrieved May 30, 2023.
  11. ^ "JJ Redick joining ESPN as NBA analyst following 15-year career". ESPN. Associated Press. October 27, 2021. Retrieved October 27, 2021.
  12. ^ Hughes Martin, Katie (February 3, 2022). "ESPN to Produce First NBA Game Broadcast on National Scale Led By All Women on Camera and in Pivotal Behind the Scenes Roles". ESPN Press Room U.S. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  13. ^ "ESPN Continues All-Women Led NBA Game & Studio Broadcasts in Celebration of International Women's Day on March 8" (Press release). Bristol: ESPN. March 3, 2023. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  14. ^ "ESPN Layoffs: Here's Updated The List Of On-Air Talent Who Were Let Go". Deadline Hollywood. July 31, 2023. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  15. ^ Tapp, Tom (August 14, 2023). "ESPN Revamps No. 1 On-Air NBA Announcing Team & Sets Up History-Making Finals Run For Doris Burke". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  16. ^ Reedy, Joe (August 14, 2023). "Doris Burke and Doc Rivers named to ESPN and ABC's top NBA crew". Associated Press. Retrieved October 14, 2023.
  17. ^ Chavkin, Daniel (June 30, 2023). "ESPN Lets Go of NBA Analyst Jeff Van Gundy, per Report". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 30, 2023.
  18. ^ Marchand, Andrew (July 31, 2023). "ESPN's NBA succession plan: Hiring Doc Rivers, laying off Mark Jackson and promoting Doris Burke". New York Post. Retrieved July 31, 2023.
  19. ^ a b Rajan, Ronce (August 14, 2023). "ESPN's Reimagined NBA Game and Studio Coverage Plans for 2023-24 Season". ESPN Press Room U.S. Retrieved September 20, 2023.
  20. ^ Rajan, Ronce (February 15, 2024). "JJ Redick Joins Mike Breen, Doris Burke and Lisa Salters on ESPN's Lead NBA Broadcast Team". ESPN Press Room U.S. Retrieved February 21, 2024.
  21. ^ TNT's fun NBA coverage a respite from ESPN's anger
  22. ^ NBA: David DuPree
  23. ^ ESPN boss makes right call after announcers blame fans
  24. ^ 2006–07 NBA SEASON ON ESPN BEGINS NOV. 1
  26. ^ Gostomelsky, Adam (February 2, 2023). "News: Brady, YouTube TV, LeBron, and more". Sports Media Watch. Retrieved February 5, 2023.

External links

Preceded by
NBA pay television carrier (with CBS) in the United States
Succeeded by
Preceded by
NBA pay television carrier (with TNT) in the United States
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This page was last edited on 14 June 2024, at 05:45
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