Given her impressive performance during the NBA Finals, ESPN’s Malika Andrews is viewed as a strong candidate to succeed departing Maria Taylor as host of “NBA Countdown,” sources told FOS.
As previously reported by FOS, Taylor is expected to join rival NBC Sports.
The 26-year old Andrews seamlessly handled the post-game interviews and trophy ceremony with NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo on Tuesday night amid the wild celebration scene at the Milwaukee Bucks arena.
Andrews replaced Rachel Nichols as ESPN/ABC’s sideline reporter for the NBA Finals between the Bucks and Phoenix Suns. ESPN execs previously hand-picked her to serve as one of the first reporters inside the NBA “bubble” last year. Her work during the Finals was praised by colleagues inside and outside ESPN.
“Shoutout to my girl Malika Andrews,” tweeted Taylor Rooks of Turner Sports and Bleacher Report. “You are a star and you killed that.”
But Andrews is not a slam-dunk. She’s never anchored or hosted a show, noted sources. The young star has worked primarily as a reporter.
ESPN’s is loaded with talented anchors and hosts, all with NBA experience, who can potentially succeed Taylor. Management may prefer to keep Andrews on the sideline while tapping a more experienced anchor for the host job.
Among them: Cassidy Hubbarth, host of “Hoop Streams;” “SportsCenter” anchor Elle Duncan; and former “Countdown” host Sage Steele.
Nichols, host of ESPN’s daily NBA show “The Jump,” is not in the running for the “Countdown” post, said sources.
Nichols’ reputation suffered serious damage after the New York Times leaked her controversial remarks about Taylor allegedly landing the “Countdown” job because of her race.
Over the years, ESPN has often split “Countdown” host gig between various personalities, including Taylor, Nichols, Steele, and the departed Michelle Beadle. ESPN may learn its lesson after the Nichols vs. Taylor feud and pick a single host.
“I hope they stop pitting two women against each other for the same job,” said one source. “It’s led to trouble.”
At NBC, Taylor could end up hosting the “Football Night in America” NFL pregame show and work on Olympics and Notre Dame coverage.
In a statement, Taylor, 34, thanked ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro and her many former colleagues at the network: “Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”