Beginning in June, ESPN is giving sports fans exactly what they desperately want: more First Take.
The network announced Wednesday it will air seven hourlong First Take specials live from the NBA Finals, in addition to the show’s regular broadcasts on weekday mornings. That means between June 1 and June 19, if the NBA Finals go seven games, ESPN will broadcast 20 episodes of First Take, spanning 33 hours.
The specials, like the regular editions of First Take, will feature Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim. They will air June 4, 6, 7, 14, 15, 17, 18. Five will air in primetime (7-8 p.m. ET), while the first will last from 12-1 p.m., and the last will be on from 5-6 p.m. All will be broadcast live from the site of the Finals.
“We are delighted that First Take will provide fans with additional special programming,” ESPN executive David Roberts said in a statement. “The Finals will be historic and the entire First Take team will be working hard to earn the support of fans on site and those watching live on all platforms.”
It makes sense that ESPN would want to ratchet up its NBA Finals coverage, given the likely rematch between the Cavs and Warriors, but did it have to be First Take that got the primetime special? PTI wasn’t free those weeks? Scott Van Pelt didn’t feel like broadcasting from Cleveland or Oakland?
Obviously some people enjoy First Take, but ESPN’s choice to give its most high-pitched, debate-minded show a shot at primetime during a marquee event offers a telling glimpse into the network’s ongoing strategy.
Can you imagine the LeBron- and Durant-related opinions that will come out of 33 hours of First Take at the NBA Finals? By the end of the (presumed) Warriors-Cavaliers series, we’ll be hearing about how Durant’s defection to Golden State places him somewhere between Judas and Benedict Arnold and how LeBron just can’t win without Mario Chalmers.