Ten days before the start of their NBA coverage, ESPN has finally finalized plans for their NBA Countdown studio show. After a John Koblin report that it was her job to lose, Sage Steele has officially been named the new host of NBA Countdown and signed a multi-year extension with ESPN. From the Bristol announcement:
"ESPN today announced it has reached a multi-year extension with versatile on-air personality Sage Steele. Per the agreement, Steele will take on a new role at ESPN, hosting the Friday and Sunday editions of NBA Countdown – ESPN’s and ABC’s NBA pre-game show. She’ll help form the Friday and Sunday Countdown team with ESPN newcomer and veteran analyst Doug Collins and returning analysts Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons. The Countdown quartet will make its debut on Friday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. (The Wednesday NBA Countdown team will consist of Rose, Doris Burke and Avery Johnson and debut Nov. 13)."
It's a wise move by ESPN on a number of fronts. Steele is one of their top studio anchors whether it be for SportsCenter or live studio coverage and although they certainly aren't immune to losing top talent, Steele is one ESPN certainly would want to keep. Bristol oracle Jim Miller says it didn't come cheaply either:
— James Andrew Miller (@ESPNBook) October 22, 2013
In re-signing Steele, certainly the headline here is ESPN finally giving its NBA studio show some structure after randomly hurling paint across the canvas and hoping it finished as some form of art. After two years of constant turnover, it finally looks like ESPN has a foursome (Steele, Simmons, Rose, Collins) that can compete with other top studio shows in sports.
Chemistry will take time to develop, but NBA Countdown as currently structured is vastly superior to what it was a year ago and miles ahead of where it was two years ago. We're a long way from the Magic Johnson, Jon Barry, Chris Broussard, Michael Wilbon quartet.
Sure, it took Magic walking away and a reported-then-denied-then-reported-again power struggle with Bill Simmons, but sometimes the end does justify the means! ESPN has not only added a proper host who is perhaps best suited of all of Bristol's anchors for the role, but they also added one of the top basketball analysts on television in the last 20 years in Doug Collins. Combine those two pieces with the budding Rose-Simmons dynamic and ESPN could be on the verge of NBA Countdown becoming a real positive for their coverage of the Association.