The full NBA schedules were announced Friday, including TNT and NBA TV and now ESPN and ABC. This will be ESPN’s 20th straight season of airing NBA games, and they’ll air 101 regular-season games across ESPN (82) and ABC (19), plus preseason games, three play-in tournament games, and up to 44 playoff games. One particular highlight is the Thanksgiving Eve (Wednesday, Nov. 24) ESPN doubleheader with the Brooklyn Nets at the Boston Celtics at 7:30 p.m. Eastern and the Philadelphia 76ers at the Golden State Warriors at 10 p.m. Eastern. Here’s more from the ESPN release, starting with NBA on ABC schedule highlights:
- Six appearances by the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry;
- Five appearances each by the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James, the Brooklyn Nets and Kevin Durant, and the defending NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo;
- Four appearances by the Boston Celtics and Jayson Tatum;
- Kevin Durant returns to Golden State as the Brooklyn Nets visit the Warriors on January 29;
- NBA Finals rematch on the March 6 edition of ABC Sunday Showcase as the defending NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks take on the Phoenix Suns and Devin Booker;
- Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James square off with the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry twice on NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC;
- Christmas Day tripleheader culminating with the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James vs. the Brooklyn Nets and Kevin Durant;
- NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC begins on December 11 at 8:30 p.m. with the Golden State Warriors visiting the Philadelphia 76ers;
- NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks host the Brooklyn Nets on February 26 and visit the Golden State Warriors on March 12.
And here are some of their NBA on ESPN schedule highlights:
- At least 10 appearances each by the NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks;
- Regular season coverage tips off on October 20 as the Boston Celtics visit the New York Knicks, followed by the Denver Nuggets vs. the Phoenix Suns;
- Strong opening week slate includes doubleheader on October 22 as the Brooklyn Nets take on the Philadelphia 76ers, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers hosting the Phoenix Suns;
- Marquee back-to-back Los Angeles Lakers games, including vs. the Milwaukee Bucks on November 17 and vs. the Boston Celtics on November 19;
- Thanksgiving Eve doubleheader: the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving vs. Boston Celtics and Jayson Tatum, followed by the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry vs. the Philadelphia 76ers and Joel Embiid;
- 2021 Eastern Conference Finals rematch on March 9 when the Atlanta Hawks square off with the NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks;
Special Sunday matchups on February 6, February 27, March. 6, March 13 and April 10.
It’s going to be an interesting year for NBA coverage on ESPN and ABC. Prominent NBA Countdown host Maria Taylor left for NBC this summer following wide scrutiny over Rachel Nichols’ 2020 comments about her; that also led to Nichols being replaced by Malika Andrews on NBA Finals sideline duty, and to questions about ESPN’s overall response and overall treatment of Black employees. ESPN/ABC have not yet announced their NBA commentators for this year, but they have announced that executive David Roberts will be taking over oversight of ESPN’s NBA production (previously led by Stephanie Druley). It will definitely be worth keeping an eye on who they announce for various NBA roles this year, including with game coverage and with Countdown.
Beyond that, there are some notable games revealed here, perhaps particularly with that Thanksgiving Eve doubleheader of Nets-Celtics and 76ers-Warriors on ESPN and with that NBA Finals rematch of the Suns and Bucks on ABC on March 6 (following a Nets-Celtics game). We’ll see how this schedule works out for ESPN and ABC.