Update: USA Today reports that Woj and team will stay at Yahoo for the draft but will be at ESPN before free agency’s start on July 1. Woj was quick to tweet out that he was indeed staying with Yahoo for the draft one June 22nd which was earlier reported not to be the case.
Days after ESPN laid off dozens of front-facing employees, including many who cover professional basketball, the network has reportedly hired Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA’s most prolific news-breaker, away from Yahoo.
According to recode, Woj will begin his time at ESPN after the NBA Draft on June 22 [Note: An earlier version of this post said Woj would start at ESPN in time for the draft. Recode now reports he will begin after the draft]. Some other members of The Vertical, the NBA site Woj founded at Yahoo, will reportedly follow him to ESPN.
We speculated last week that The Vertical could soon move from Yahoo to ESPN in light of the network’s decision to lay off Marc Stein, Henry Abbott, Chad Ford and more. As we wrote then,
Woj was headed to ESPN, and while that never materialized, there was obviously some smoke.Yahoo is struggling even more than ESPN is and might not be in a position to maintain such a deep stable of NBA writers. Deadspin reported back in February thatPlus, ESPN taking over The Vertical would make Friday’s layoffs seem much more sensible. Marc Stein is expendable if you plan to add Woj (America’s other top NBA breaking news reporter), Bobby Marks and Shams Charania. And maybe the loss of Abbott doesn’t hurt quite so much if Chris Mannix and others are on the way over. The Vertical also has a successful podcast network, that could easily replace the popular True Hoop podcasts.
While it doesn’t necessarily sound like The Vertical entire roster (or its brand) will follow Wojnarowski to ESPN, clearly much of Yahoo’s NBA talent is moving over. We don’t yet know if ESPN’s NBA coverage will be stronger or weaker than it was before the layoffs, but it clearly won’t be gutted to the extent it appeared it might be.
One area ESPN clearly will improve is in its breaking news. While the newly laid-off Marc Stein was an excellent reporter and broke plenty of big NBA stories, no one matches Woj in terms of being plugged into NBA happenings. For a company that just cut many great reporters and analysts, this is a huge free-agent signing.