Ryen Russillo and Tim Legler on Russillo's podcast. Ryen Russillo and Tim Legler on Russillo’s podcast.

Around the Indiana Pacers’ seven-game victory over the New York Knicks in the NBA’s East Semifinals, there’s been a lot of discussion about the disparity in broadcaster ESPN’s coverage of the teams. That was particularly notable in the buildup to Sunday’s Game 7, where the NBA on ABC pregame show featured extensive footage of ESPN host and noted New York Knicks’ fan Stephen A. Smith arriving at Madison Square Garden, plus him talking with fellow Knicks’ fan Spike Lee about what mattered for that team (with little to no corresponding discussion of the Pacers).

Around that, ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler has added fuel to that fire. That came with his comments on the latest episode of The Ryen Russillo Podcast, which was released Tuesday. There, Legler said he tried to discuss the Pacers more this year, but was told in meetings with ESPN bosses that they “weren’t sexy enough.” Here’s that clip, via Pacers’ writer/podcaster Alex Golden:

“I wish I had video of all the meetings I’ve been in this year at ESPN when I wanted to talk more about the Indiana Pacers. Particularly after they got [Pascal] Siakam…and it’s just not sexy enoughAnd we kind of didn’t talk about it.

“And I watch this team every night, and I’m going, ‘Gosh, that’s a fun style to play in.’ I envy these guys for being able to play in a system like this. But just how hard it is to guard, how hard it is to prepare when you have this many guys who can make shots. And they don’t waste one dribble. There’s not one wasted dribble on the part of the Indiana Pacers in the halfcourt.”

The discussion about ESPN caring about particular big markets more than teams’ on-court or on-field performance is not new, and is not new to Russillo’s show. And it’s certainly not limited to basketball. (And in some respects, the NBA is lucky to still be in the category of sports that receives notable ESPN coverage outside games, which has very little to do with actual sports newsworthiness, even if that coverage is often focused more on one or two teams.)

But the Knicks-Pacers series did spark particular questions about ESPN coverage (some from the team’s social media account, even), and lots of media mockery. And it’s raised questions on how the network will handle the Pacers’ clash with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. And Legler’s comments here about being unable to sell the Pacers as worth additional ESPN TV discussion despite their on-court showing will certainly add to that debate.

[Alex Golden on X/Twitter, The Ryen Russillo Podcast at The Ringer]

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.