Bill Simmons is bringing Grantland to television.
After two years on the NBA Countdown set, the kingmaker of ESPN is taking his talents to… another show on ESPN. Simmons is departing Bristol’s flagship NBA show to head up a new effort with the Grantland brand.
The Grantland Basketball Show (quite the original name, there) will air up to 18 one-hour episodes on ESPN throughout the NBA season. The debut episode drops October 21st at 8 PM ET on the mothership. Simmons will be the star of the show, but as of ESPN’s announcement it is unknown who will join him. You can bet that Grantland’s NBA voices will be heavily featured. Duh. That means Official Simmons Running Buddy Jalen Rose, Zach Lowe, Jonathan Abrams, Andrew Sharp, Mark Titus (please let Mark Titus be a part of this) and others working at the site are likely to appear on the show.
What is interesting is that the Grantland Basketball Show will be under the auspices of ESPN’s fancy new original content outpost Exit 31 production studio. That’s the new conglomerate within the company that oversees Grantland, 538, 30 for 30, and generally all the cool stuff that ESPN does that isn’t someone embracing debate in a Bristol studio.
This is a good move for all parties involved. The chemistry on-set was really lacking for NBA Countdown, especially towards the end of the year when Sage Steele was notably miffed by Simmons’ pouting over not being able to talk. Simmons didn’t exactly cover himself in glory there, but now he gets his own show where he will probably have a hefty editorial say and a freer platform to do his own thing. As the unquestioned top link on the talent food chain at ESPN, Bristol has to do whatever it can to keep him happy. You can question just how much power Simmons has and should have in this relationship, but that’s the reality of the situation.
Now fans of Simmons and Grantland can have a space to call their own while those who aren’t fans of the Sports Guy can feel safe watching Countdown. Simmons has improved as a television presence in the past couple years, but it was evident that he was becoming an increasingly bad fit on ESPN’s main set. The new Grantland Basketball Show should be a better setup for success.
On the flip side, NBA Countdown can continue to build on Sage Steele and Doug Collins and gain momentum as a legitimate studio show. Or they could bring on Michael Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith and blow the whole thing up again. That remains to be seen. But as of now, this seems like a move by ESPN that should be beneficial to all parties.