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Monday, June 24, 2024

ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins Could Be Promoted to ‘NBA Countdown’

  • Perkins would fill the chair of laid-off ESPN analyst Jalen Rose.
  • Could Perkins become the Charles Barkley of ESPN?
Kendrick Perkins could moving up to primetime at ESPN.
Allen Kee / ESPN Images

Kendrick Perkins’ star keeps rising at ESPN. 

The NBA analyst is a “strong contender” to become a full-time member of the network’s national “NBA Countdown” studio show, sources told Front Office Sports.

The former NBA champion with the Boston Celtics could fill the seat made open by last Friday’s layoff of long-time “Countdown” analyst Jalen Rose, said sources.

The 38-year-old Perkins was known as an enforcer during his 14-year NBA career. But the baritone “Big Perk” has stood out for his opinionated, savvy analysis on ESPN studio shows such as “NBA Today,” “Hoop Streams,” “First Take,” and “Get Up” since retiring from the NBA in 2019.

Similar to Charles Barkley, Perkins could bring an element of strong opinion and controversy to “Countdown.” 

Perkins engaged in a fiery war of words with ESPN colleague J.J. Redick after he questioned whether some white MVP voters were biased against Black players when voting for Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets over Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.

On Stephen A. Smith’s “First Take,” Redick argued Perkins created a false “narrative” by implying some white voters are racist. 

With his voice rising, Perkins fired back. 

“I stated the facts.”

Right or wrong, Perkins’s comments shifted the MVP debate. Bomani Jones credited him with helping Embiid win his first MVP over two-time MVP Jokic this season.

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But Perkins won’t be the only new analyst considered for “Countdown,” which has shuffled through multiple casts for years in a bid to compete with Barkley’s popular “Inside the NBA” on TNT. 

Other internal ESPN contenders could include Redick, Chiney Ogwumike, and Richard Jefferson.

During the 2023 NBA Finals, ESPN/ABC’s “NBA Countdown” cast included Mike Greenberg as host, Rose, Stephen A. Smith, and Michael Wilbon as analyst and NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald previously reported Perkins could be a contender for “NBA Countdown” next season.

Perkins previously signed a multi-year extension with ESPN in May 2021.

“I’m a country boy from Beaumont, Texas. Sometimes I may speak with broken English. But what I always tell people is that this is not English class. We’re talking basketball here. We’re talking about hoops,” he told Boston.com

“So I approach it as a real job, but I love it because I get to be myself and talk about it like I’d talk about it with my friends or teammates. I think people watching like that and know I’m being real.”

ESPN management is closely examining all aspects of its NBA coverage as it tries to retain its 20-year relationship with the league in upcoming billion-dollar media rights negotiations.

Rivals ranging from NBC Sports and CBS Sports to Amazon Prime Video and Apple could seek to pick off some or all of the media rights controlled by ESPN parent The Walt Disney Co.

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The sports giant just made the stunning decision to lay off lead NBA game analyst Jeff Van Gundy

The former New York Knicks coach served on ESPN/ABC’s No. 1 NBA broadcast team for 16 years with analyst Mark Jackson and play-by-play announcer Mike Breen.

Hoops reporter Nick Friedell was also part of Friday’s layoffs.

Separately, NBA analyst Vince Carter’s contract is not expected to be renewed in September as ESPN closely examines the financial viability of its long-term contract deals.

ESPN declined to comment.

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