Bill Simmons Tony Kornheiser PTI Credit: Pardon the Interruption

Bill Simmons thinks he was bad on television until his last year at ESPN.

It wasn’t until his final season doing NBA Countdown during the basketball season, a year in which the show didn’t have a traditional host, that he got enough reps to get comfortable with the rhythms of doing television. So all the times you saw Simmons on Pardon the Interruption or any other ESPN show, just know he is aware it wasn’t his best.

In fact, Simmons told Jimmy Traina on the Sports Illustrated Media podcast, he believes the first time he did PTI he was simply not ready for it.

“I got thrown on PTI in 2009, I was ****ing terrified,” Simmons told Traina. “(Tony) Kornheiser, who’s one of my favorite people who ever lived, he threw me on his back and carried me for four days.

“I was terrified. I didn’t know what camera to look at. I didn’t know what I was doing. And they’re telling me, ‘You’re doing great,’ and I’m like, ‘I know I’m not doing great.'”

After the hostless year of NBA Countdown in which Simmons shared anchor duties with (coincidentally) Michael Wilbon, Simmons came back to PTI and finally felt at ease. This was right before Simmons was fired by ESPN, likely in the summer of 2015.

“The first day we did it, I brought it,” Simmons said. “And (Kornheiser) was kind of surprised, I could see it.”

The conversation touched on all the ways Simmons saw people develop as television personalities early in his career, himself included. He mentioned athletes like Jerome Bettis who failed in the media, others like Shaquille O’Neal who developed over time, and even Jimmy Kimmel, whose show Simmons wrote on in the early 2000s, who needed repetition to improve.

By Simmons’ telling, it took him about six years to go from being “terrified” to getting comfortable on air. That’s a lot of reps.

Still, it’s more than many others get, especially in today’s decentralized media ecosystem. At the highest levels, talent just keeps going on TV until they improve or get fired. But many others lose their way because there just isn’t enough money or structure to support smaller shows and younger talent—including at The Ringer.

[SI Media with Jimmy Traina on YouTube]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.