Former ESPN personality and one-time NBA Countdown panelist Bill Simmons was again featured on NBA Countdown’s season debut Wednesday, but in an unusual way. 25 minutes into the show, they ran a title sequence featuring today’s panelists, complete with a blurred-out outline of Simmons next to Jalen Rose as they walk away from an explosion, with Michelle Beadle then spraying the flames with a fire extinguisher:
ESPN vice-president of original content Kevin Wildes, who oversees their NBA studio production, told Awful Announcing they did this as a one-time thing, for fun and with Simmons’ approval.
“It was a one-time thing we did to have a little fun,” Wildes said. “Bill was in on it, and thought it would be fun too.”
This perhaps continues a bit of a improving relationship between Simmons and ESPN. Simmons has made plenty of highly critical comments about the network since leaving, including calling his exit “f***ing shitty,” and ESPN reportedly banned its employees from appearing on Simmons’ podcasts and his new Any Given Wednesday HBO show. However, Simmons said on a Facebook Live Q+A earlier this month that there’s “some thawing” with ESPN and that there’s now a possibility Rose could be a guest for him, saying “there’s a scenario in which Jalen would be on some day.” Doing something like this with Simmons being in on it suggests the thawing may be continuing. At the very least, it made for a pretty funny moment.