Deadspin has reported not only that Magic Johnson has backed out of his obligation to ESPN’s “NBA Countdown” program, but that his reason was based on Bill Simmons disproportionate sway over the makeup of the show.
[Via Deadspin] Magic apparently was not at all happy when ESPN told his buddy Michael Wilbon that his role on NBA Countdown would be diminished…Another ESPN insider also said that Magic was “privately seething over the Wilbon thing and in general did not like that Simmons held all the power and influence.”…Such is his power now at ESPN. “The shadow president,” a source called him.
This is a bombshell, considering the fact that Simmons is routinely butting heads with ESPN over controversial jokes and criticisms about the network. Not only does Deadspin’s report suggest that Simmons has won the war with the higher ups, it suggests that he has BECOME ONE OF THE HIGHER UPS! (Perhaps a younger/hipper move to compete with Fox Sports 1?) Regardless, the show — which had a few awkward moments between the cheerful Magic and sarcastic Simmons — stands to improve with the shake up, seeing as Magic often times seemed lost amidst the basketball nerd chit-chat lead by B.S. himself.
The omission of Wilbon seems to signify Simmons wants to be the token journalist on the panel, as he’s been replaced by veteran NBA head coach and former player, Doug Collins. Collins’ more cerebral take on basketball will definitely ratchet up the analytical insight on the show, while his 40 years of NBA experience will fill some of the void left in Magic’s absence. Sure, Wilbon’s bold opinions, personality, and eloquence will be missed, but we’re excited to see how Doris Burke fares as his replacement on an increasingly contentious, cynical, entertaining, all-male panel.