Despite their self-imposed designation as the “Worldwide Leader in Sports”, ESPN’s NBA halftime show has long failed to match up to the God-like status of TNT’s Inside the NBA.
This year, ESPN set out to change that by sticking perhaps their most well-known employee, Sports Guy Bill Simmons, in the studio along with rising star Jalen Rose (as well as holdovers Magic Johnson and Mike Wilbon of PTI). With Simmons’ colloquial style of analysis, Rose’s propensity to drop insightful nuggets of knowledge on his cult-hit podcast on the Grantland Network (and their shared willingness to speak without a filter), ESPN hopes that their show can more closely approximate TNT’s fun, loosey-goosey show.
While no one on this new cast has the lovably outlandish personality of Charles Barkley, Simmons does bring a massive and loyal fanbase as a prospective audience, and the VORA (Value Over Replacement Analyst) of Rose over the at times insufferable Jon Barry is off the charts.
Further, Simmons seems to recognize the need to win over the respect of bloggers such as this one with a more sophisticated and analytic punditry, and while he may not be fluent in advanced analytics he shows an open mind towards them which is novel in mainstream television coverage currently:
“I do want the show to have a level of sophistication that I think you have to have in this day and age, especially with all the basketball bloggers out there. They are all so smart, they know how to use statistics, they know how to use the trade machine. I don’t want to say you have to cater the show to those people, but you have to earn their respect, too.” — Bill Simmons
At worst, they should at least make the show watchable (compared to the automatic channel-turner of last year), and at best, the show has a potential to bring a unique perspective to mainstream NBA coverage.