Grading Bill Simmons’ NBA Broadcasting Debut

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We told you earlier this week that Bill Simmons was making his NBA broadcasting debut as an NBA game analyst for the Heat/Warriors game tonight.  Well, now that it belongs to the history books, how did the Sports Guy do?  Did he fall flat like Tony Kornheiser and Dennis Miller before him, or are we seeing the career of another Howard Cosell blossom before our eyes?  A quick view of Twitter after the game shows a mixed opinion of Simmons behind the mic…

pricedout I like Simmons. Literally watching this game to hear him, otherwise zero interest. Do your thing Bill. 
AlexLarreynaga This Bill Simmons guy should never be an announcer for a basketball game again lol
JC6451#bill simmons did great job with the Heat – Warriors call and he was the biggest celeb at the game apparently.
Cool__Jay I guess ESPN is gonna bring Dennis Miller in to do basketball too? No more Bill Simmons please. dude is a Tool
INSPEKTRDETECTR Pleasantly surprised by Bill Simmons in the broadcast booth. Love his writing, but didn’t think he’d be good on TV.
djstevem @awfulannouncing pam ward has a deeper voice than bill simmons
champagneben Hey Bill Simmons : you far exceeded our expectations tonight. Stellar prep, fresh takes, clever revelry. New calling. @sportsguy33
rolandsmartin Sorry, Dan. The guy who is horrible doing color commentary is Bill Simmons. Dude’s terrible! I GUARANTEE you I can call game better than him
mruemmele I totally support this whole bill simmons commentating thing
KobesKnee Never seen a more polarizing trending than Bill Simmons. I enjoyed it, although he needs a voice double. Maybe he could close caption.

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As you can see, Twitter was fairly divided, so it’s up to us at AA to tell it like it really is… since ya know… talking about sports announcers is kinda what we do here.  So, what’s the review for Bill Simmons as an announcer…

In my opinion (and as a sometimey broadcaster in my spare time, I guess I am .24% qualified to analyze this), Simmons was very good in his first broadcast.  There were awkward moments like grunting after some plays, which he alluded to on Twitter during halftime, and his on-camera appearances appeared to be a cross between a guy held at gunpoint and someone overdosing on speed.  Overall though, it was very entertaining to watch as a viewer.  

Simmons was much more natural than Tony Kornheiser or Dennis Miller ever were in the booth, and he actually provided some decent living room style analysis of the game that most fans could find relatable.  His knowledge of basketball was certainly helpful and it showed throughout the broadcast… this is the guy that wrote The Book of Basketball after all.  Thankfully, the Sports Guy didn’t focus only on his schtick or gimmick like Kornheiser and Miller did.  Simmons was actually a game analyst tonight instead of “comedian turned sportscaster” or “sportswriter shoehorned into MNF booth because ESPN is desperate for ratings.”

Simmons didn’t go into column mode and overload us with pop culture references or cute jokes either.  The jokes were kept to a minimum (maybe Joe Buck can take a hint), and we didn’t get a Red Sox reference until it was a 26 point game late in the 4th quarter.  Overall, Simmons’ commentary was balanced between humorous and insightful throughout the game.  It helped the broadcast that Simmons had the most professional play by play man in the business in Dan Shulman and Mark Jackson working with him too.

There were a couple minor critiques, mainly the lame peddling of his new paperback book and the butt kissing over ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, but that was to be expected.  I know what you’re thinking though – what about his voice?!?  Actually, Simmons’ voice didn’t bother me like it did plenty of viewers because I empathize with the soft-spoken crowd myself!  I can see where it’s an issue for some, but after the 1st quarter it wasn’t noticeable.  Basketball is a such a fast paced game that it can be hard to find a groove as an announcer.  This was evident when some of Simmons’ points were cut off or plays transpired behind conversation.  Nevertheless, Simmons settled in nicely to the rhythm and flow of the game for the most part, which is where I felt he may have struggled the most.

Bill Simmons was a pleasant surprise in his debut as an NBA broadcaster and it would be wise for ESPN to install him as a game analyst for more west coast Friday night games.  It makes sense because his addition raised the profile of ESPN’s coverage tonight and he was actually very good.  Announcers should make the viewing/listening experience more entertaining, tell the story of what’s happening in the game, and be insightful.  Simmons successfully checked off all three of those boxes tonight.  All in all, Bill Simmons gets 2 Thumbs Up for his NBA broadcasting debut.  For the naysayers out there, at least we can all agree he’s better than Torry Holt


Matt Yoder

About Matt Yoder

Managing Editor of Awful Announcing and award winning sportswriter. Bloguin consigliere. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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