Monday December 4, 2023

Will ‘NBA Countdown’ Host Maria Taylor Leave ESPN?

  • “NBA Countdown” and “College GameDay” star’s contract is up this summer.
  • ESPN “strongly” wants to re-sign Taylor, said sources.
Joe Faraoni-ESPN
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

ESPN has a big talent decision coming up. Popular reporter/host Maria Taylor’s contract is up this summer.

As ESPN cuts costs and scrutinizes its talent contracts, the network will have to work hard to re-sign one of its fastest-rising young stars.

The 33-year-old star of “NBA Countdown” and “College GameDay” has experienced a meteoric rise since joining ESPN in 2014. 

Starting off as the host of “SEC Nation,” the former University of Georgia athlete became a reporter for “College GameDay” and “ABC Saturday Night Football” in 2017, after Samantha Ponder moved over to “Sunday NFL Countdown.” Two years later, Taylor got another big promotion, succeeding Michelle Beadle as host of “NBA Countdown.”

When the “College GameDay” crew of Taylor, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler got the call to work the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants “Monday Night Football” game in 2020, Taylor tweeted: “First NFL game of my career so I think that makes me a rookie.”

Taylor signed her last contract extension in Summer 2018. ESPN declined to comment.

ESPN “strongly” wants to keep her, said a source. Despite a difficult talent market post-pandemic, Taylor will likely have options if she chooses free agency:

  • With its growing portfolio of NFL and college sports rights, Taylor would be a natural target for Fox Sports. Fox has been poaching a number of ESPNers, including Tom Rinaldi, Emmanuel Acho, Jonathan Vilma, Mark Schlereth, and Adam Amin.
  • Taylor’s also the type of versatile TV talent who can move into news or entertainment reporting, said sources. Think Michael Strahan, Robin Roberts, and Bryant Gumbel. 
  • Amazon’s expected to land “Thursday Night Football” during current NFL rights negotiations. Taylor’s equally adept at reporting and hosting. It’s only a matter of time before deep-pocketed tech giants start poaching talent from legacy networks, said sources. 

Taylor has never been afraid to publicly mix it up. 

When Chicago radio host Dan McNeil tweeted that Taylor’s MNF outfit was more appropriate for an adult film awards show, she called him out. 

“Well Danny Dearest if you would like to continue making sexist comments about me…please bring your misogyny with you to the NBA Countdown double header I’ll be hosting tomorrow night. Hey ladies remember you can wear whatever you feel confident in!”

Taylor’s colleagues, like Elle Duncan of ESPN, rushed to her defense. “Imagine just crushing your first MNF gig and having a senior age man comment on your outfit as his biggest takeaway,” tweeted Duncan.

McNeil was quickly terminated by Entercom Chicago. He later apologized publicly to Taylor and wished her luck. “You’re terrific,” he tweeted. 

When New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees repeatedly backtracked for calling NFL players “disrespectful” for kneeling for racial justice, Taylor was having none of his excuses.  

“My patience left my body when I saw George Floyd take his last breath,” she told Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman on “First Take.” Her Brees comments went viral, drawing over 1.5 million views on Twitter.

Still, business is business. A budget-conscious ESPN has either bought or declined to re-sign other hosts such as Beadle, Dan Le Batard, Mike Golic Sr., and Trey Wingo the last couple of years. 

If Taylor leaves, ESPN still has a deep bench of up-and-coming talent including Duncan, Cassidy Hubbarth, Malika Andrews, and Monica McNutt. All of them boast a mix of hosting and reporting experience for pro and college sports.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

After Unbeaten FSU’s Snub, Financial and Legal Fallout

FSU, ACC to take sizable revenue hit despite Seminoles' undefeated season.

TV Networks Are Programming College Football’s Future: What’s Next

Conference championship weekends will have a different feel in the future.
Shaquille O'Neal

A.I. Shaq? Authentic Files Trademarks Hinting at Virtual Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O’Neal and licensing group claim “ASK SHAQ” and “SHAQ A.I.”

Commanders Spend Big On Current Home While Planning New Stadium

The Washington Commanders will keep upgrading FedEx Field.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

CFP Selection Turns Heads with Controversial Selection


Featured Today

The College Football Playoff is considering rotating TV networks for the national championship game.

CFP Considers Super Bowl-Like Rotation For National Championship Game

Multiple networks could share rights to the championship game, sources told FOS.
Brett Favre
November 27, 2023

Favre Welfare Case Hold-Up? "AG’s Office Has Not Expressed Interest In Pursuing"

The DOJ interviewed Brett Favre in early 2020.
The future of the Pac-12 rests on a court decision.
November 24, 2023

The Pac-12 Plays Its Final Regular-Season Game. Then A Court Decides Its Fate.

The conference's future rests with a court decision.
Lane Kiffin
November 9, 2023

Ole Miss, Lane Kiffin Lawyers Argue for Dismissal of Player Lawsuit

FOS obtained audio of Lane Kiffin's interaction with the player behind lawsuit.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Multiple - USA Careers
Live Nation
Multiple - USA Careers
Saco Bay PT
Multiple - USA Careers
Detailed view of the new In-Season Tournament court before the game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Dallas Mavericks at the Smoothie King Center.
November 30, 2023

New Orleans Pelicans Reportedly Headed For Local Television

The Pelicans could air games on over-the-air channel Fox 8.
December 1, 2023

Would Disney's ESPN Walk Away From The NBA?

Will financial pressures impact the company's decision with a longtime partner?

NHL’s Chris Foster on Amplifying Content Distribution With Automation

Learn how the NHL is using WSC Sports to increase fan engagement.
November 30, 2023

PFL, ESPN Agree on New Multiyear Broadcast Rights Deal

ESPN+ PPV will be the home of the PFL’s new Super Fight Division.
November 29, 2023

NASCAR Secures $7.7B Media Rights Deals

Amazon and Warner Bros. Discovery come on as new partners.
disney wbd
November 29, 2023

Disney, WBD Chiefs Lament New Sports Media Challenges

Zaslav, Iger point to heightened complexity of their sports media operations.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts tosses the ball to fans after scoring a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.
November 29, 2023

The Philadelphia Eagles Continue To Be NFL’s Biggest Draw

Philadelphia was once again in one of the NFL's most-watched games.