This fall, a new broadcast team will lead ESPN’s 2023-24 NBA season coverage. The network dropped veterans Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson in surprising moves. The Worldwide Leader then tabbed Doris Burke and former NBA coach Doc Rivers to join Hall of Famer Mike Breen. The way the network got to this point has been criticized. But don’t count Dan Le Batard as one of the biggest critics, at least when it comes to who’s calling the game.
Le Batard expressed on his show this week that he’s often not too interested in worrying. But there is one exception to the rule that he has. If you’re “truly awful,” Le Batard says, then he will pick up on it. Via Barrett Sports Media, the outspoken personality said:
“To me, as someone who largely consumes these things with the sound down, I almost don’t care at all who is broadcasting that you could only get my attention if you’re truly awful,” Le Batard said. “And most of the other pieces I view as interchangeable. So I imagine Doc Rivers and Doris Burke and Mike Breen will be about as good as Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Mike Breen.”
It’s probably fair to suggest that most people often don’t care who’s calling games. It’s true that the lead announcers, in some way, shape, or form, will always get a lot of attention for the good or the bad. Jim Nantz and Joe Buck are two chief examples of play-by-play commentators who’ve received a lion’s share of criticism or annoyance from viewers over the years.
But, by and large, the fans will want to tune in to see their teams play or watch the sport. The commentator is responsible for keeping interest levels high, but the way the game is played is the most important factor. As long as the quality of play is high, it’s likely that ESPN’s new commentator pairing trudges along fine anyway.