For most of next week, ESPN is doubling its First Take output, and they’re bringing in an unconventional outside voice along the way. On July 2, 3, 5 and 6, there will be afternoon 90-minute First Take NBA free agency specials (disappointingly not titled First Take: Double Take) with the usual cast of Molly Qerim, Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith, airing from 4:30-6 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. The whole week (including July 4, which won’t have an afternoon special) will also see First Take air in its regular 10 a.m.-noon morning slot, but with “a rotating group of commentators including Will Cain, Domonique Foxworth, Ryan Hollins and Jason Fitz.”
And perhaps most unusually, the morning shows will be hosted by former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay:
Lindsay was a contestant on the 21st season of ABC’s The Bachelor before moving on as the 13th Bachelorette in 2017. A graduate of the University of Texas, Lindsay also obtained her law degree from Marquette University. An avid basketball fan, she has previously guested on First Take when the show was on the road in her home state of Texas.
Here’s a clip of her on the show talking with Smith about her Cowboys fandom:
— First Take (@FirstTake) September 8, 2017
Lindsay is just the latest to appear on both ABC’s The Bachlelor/The Bachelorette franchise and ESPN; Jesse Palmer was the star of The Bachelor in 2004 (while serving as the New York Giants’ backup QB) and joined ESPN in 2007, while Jordan Rodgers was a contestant on (and the eventual winner of) The Bachelorette in 2016, a year after he first joined ESPN’s SEC Network. But it’s interesting to see her tabbed as a guest First Take host. It’s also interesting to see ESPN shift its usual First Take cast to these afternoon specials for a week, with executive David Roberts (yes, the one recently in the news) saying in the release that this expansion’s about reinforcing First Take as “the first choice for lively debate,” especially around the NBA:
“The NBA is a year-round sport,” said David Roberts, vice president, network content. “We are expanding our live programming to reinforce First Take’s commitment to being the first choice for lively debate and entertainment discussion on any major developments throughout the league – mornings and afternoons. With free agency up next, First Take will examine every angle through the two shows.”
Of course, this won’t be ESPN’s whole coverage of NBA free agency. They have Woj now, and it seems likely he’ll continue to break much of the news (with no need for a thesaurus this time) and will be featured on news-focused shows like SportsCenter. They also have the Rachel Nichols-hosted The Jump, which has often proven a compelling alternative for those looking for insight and analysis rather than just debate. But ESPN’s doubling down on the debate model for at least a week, and expanding the usual cast. Prepare for plenty of takes…