Patrick Beverley bringing up Josh Giddey on a NBA Unplugged ESPN alternate broadcast. Patrick Beverley bringing up Josh Giddey on a NBA Unplugged ESPN alternate broadcast. (Awful Announcing on YouTube.)

The debut of alternate broadcast NBA Unplugged with Kevin Hart Saturday had an unusual moment. That Omaha Productions/ESPN alternate broadcast on ESPN2 for the Los Angeles Lakers-Indiana Pacers In-Season Tournament Final (the Lakers won 123-109) was the first of seven planned NBA Unplugged broadcasts with Hart and the Plastic Cup Boyz (Joey Wells, Will Horton and Na’im Lynn) this season, but it veered into unusual territory during a fourth-quarter interview with guest Patrick Beverley of the Philadelphia 76ers. Out of nowhere, with the only connection seemingly being Hart praising him for his honesty, Beverley brought up the allegations of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey having an improper relationship with a minor:

Beverley says “I appreciate you saying that about the honesty, because I’ve got a question too. I’ve got a daughter and I like to call myself a girl dad. What do you think about the Josh Giddey situation?” That led to some “Uh-oh” and “Woof” comments, to Hart saying “Fellas, you all want to answer that?”, to one of the other guys outlining the situation, and to Beverley saying “I read that too. I’m saying what did y’all think about it? That was my question.”

Hart then says “Pat, I heard your question, but I’m going to tell you what I do real well, deflect. I am a brand parent, being a brand. I’ll text you and give you my real thoughts, but right now on NBA Unplugged, I’m going to keep it as commercial as I possibly can. Did I tell you Chase is a part of this? [Laughs] They’re my partners. I’ve got a lot of people that are in my commercial bandwidth. Now, Pat, this is the In-Season Tournament game. I’ve got a question for you, do you like the color of the courts?” Beverley then says “I like the color of the courts, not jail courts, but basketball courts.” And Hart says “Okay, you said, ‘Kev, I see your callback, and I raise you another one. I raise you one.'”

Beverley then tries to justify his bringing up Giddey with his own experience of getting booed in Oklahoma City.

“I’m just trying to figure out, Kevin, because I went to OKC and they booed the s*** out of me. It was the craziest thing in the world, and I was looking around like ‘What the f*** did I do?'” And Hart says, laughing, “Well, after that question, Pat, I can kind of see why. I can kind of see where the boos came from. Pat, this is what I’m going to do, before I let you go, I am going to call you.”

Beverley then says “Aw, you’re kicking me off now?” Hart says “No, Pat, I’m not kicking you off, but you’ve got to understand…all right, to be honest, I’m kicking you off [laughs]. You know I ain’t lying to you, we’re friends, I gotta tell you the truth.” One of the Plastic Cup Boyz says “This is our audition, Pat! Come on! This is our audition!” Hart says “I haven’t been sweating this entire game, Pat, but as soon as you asked me that question, a piece of sweat dropped down my back.”

There’s sometimes some merit to questioning ESPN decisions to go away from serious topics. One case there is from Sage Steele’s infamous 2016 Celebrity All-Star Game interview with Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, where he tried to discuss the importance of “healthcare and taking care of people” in elections and Steele grabbed the mic back and said “We’re talking about celebrity stuff, not politics.” (Ironic considering how much she wants to talk politics now.) But a difference there is that those kinds of interviews are often a plug for whatever the celebrity wants to promote, while Beverley’s guest appearance here was at least theoretically to talk about the game (especially inside the final five minutes) rather than bring up ongoing and unresolved investigations (both NBA and criminal) into a player who doesn’t play for either of the teams involved.

It’s far from clear just what Beverley was trying to accomplish here. There has been a lot of discussion about ESPN’s coverage of Giddey. That’s included former NFL receiver Dez Bryant going after NBA Countdown host Malika Andrews for only brief discussions of Giddey compared to Alabama Crimson Tide-turned-Charlotte Hornets player Brandon Miller and claiming that that’s about race, Stephen A. Smith defending Andrews, and Smith saying he hasn’t talked about it much because “You could get sued, idiots!”, especially given that all that’s known to date is anonymous social media accusations and photos of a man who appears to be Giddey with an unidentified woman.

It’s possible that Beverley was trying to feed into the “ESPN isn’t covering this” angle. And he was maybe even reaching for the “ESPN isn’t covering this because it’s a white player” angle proposed by Bryant and others. But Smith’s comments there are a good illustration of why the network hasn’t gone as heavily in on this as they did in other cases, including with Miller.

While Miller himself was not charged with a crime, he was around teammate Darius Miles around the fatal shooting of Jamea Harris. That led to capital murder charges for Miles, whose gun was used, and Michael Davis, who allegedly pulled the trigger. And Miller allegedly brought the gun to Miles, and has been named in a civil lawsuit on Harris’ death.

And while not all the reporting there was accurate (including an erroneous New York Times report on the presence of fellow Alabama player Kai Spears, which they’re being sued over), Miller being near the scene and bringing the gun was well-established by the point of ESPN commentary on it, which is much more than what’s been established in the Giddey case.

The clips here are also interesting for just how Hart handles this. He’s very upfront and honest about being “a brand parent” (presumably in response to Beverley’s discussion of being a “girl dad”) and saying he doesn’t want to share his true thoughts on the air. And it’s hard to blame him too much for that.

This sure felt like an attempted ambush from Beverley, and one that did not fit at all with the tone of the broadcast. And there probably weren’t too many people watching the last five minutes of game time here who really wanted to hear Hart go in-depth on his thoughts on serious, but vague and unproven, allegations against a player who doesn’t play for either of the involved teams. There’s certainly room to discuss how ESPN has or hasn’t covered the Giddey situation, but this probably wasn’t the time, place, or manner to really dive into it further.

[Awful Announcing on Twitter]



About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.