Get ready for Michelle Beadle — The Comeback.
The former host of ESPN’s “NBA Countdown” is in talks with several suitors about possibly returning to sports media in time for the NBA’s 2021-22 season, sources tell Front Office Sports.
The regular season tips off on Oct. 19.
ESPN bought out Beadle’s $5 million-a-year contract in the summer of 2019, allowing her to take plenty of time off before her next career move.
Now the former co-host of ESPN’s “Get Up” and “SportsNation” wants to get back to work — and it will be intriguing to watch Beadle try to write her second act.
For a decade, Beadle was one of the brightest stars in sports media. Funny, fearless, and entertaining, she gained overnight stardom as co-host of “SportsNation” with Colin Cowherd on ESPN2 in 2009.
After a successful three-year run with “SportsNation,” she jumped to NBC Sports to host her own show, “The Crossover with Michelle Beadle,” which lasted only one season.
Beadle returned to ESPN and “SportsNation” in 2014. She picked up where she left off, eventually hosting “NBA Countdown” in 2017, then being named co-host of the new weekday morning show “Get Up,” with Mike Greenberg and Jalen Rose in 2018.
But Beadle is known for being outspoken and, at times, could be her own worst enemy. During her short-lived run on “Get Up” she called Ohio State coach Urban Meyer a “liar” for his claims about how he handled then-assistant coach Zach Smith’s alleged abuse of his ex-wife. Beadle’s assertion was born out by Ohio State’s investigation, resulting in a three-game suspension for Meyer, now coach of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
Then Beadle upped the ante by declaring she’d stopped watching NFL and college football for two seasons because she believed they marginalized women. At the time, ESPN was desperately trying to mend its broken relationship with the NFL, its biggest business partner.
“The entire thing is a disgrace. I’m just numb to it. I’m just ready for NBA to kick off, quite frankly. That’s what I’m here for,” she told Greenberg and Rose on Get Up.
ESPN removed Beadle off “Get Up,” allowing her to focus on her main interest: the NBA. But it eventually bought out her contract as host of “NBA Countdown.” She was replaced by Rachels Nichols and Maria Taylor, setting the stage for the power struggle that culminated with both women exiting ESPN this past year.
Keith Olbermann’s three different stints at ESPN prove you can never say never. But it’s doubtful Beadle would return to ESPN. Ditto for TNT, the NBA’s other national TV partner, where Ernie Johnson Jr. is entrenched as longtime host of “Inside the NBA.”
Look for Beadle to explore the independent path of other talents who’ve left ESPN, said sources. They include Bill Simmons, who founded The Ringer, Jemele Hill, who launching her own podcast network with Spotify while writing for The Atlantic, Josina Anderson, who recently joined USA TODAY as an NFL Insider after starting her own “Undefined” video/podcast platform, or Kenny Mayne and Trey Wingo, who’ve entered the lucrative sports betting space as analyst/brand ambassadors for Caesars.
Beadle could also rejoin her former ESPN boss John Skipper, Hill and former colleague Dan Le Batard at Meadowlark Media. Or the longtime wrestling fan could contribute to the WWE, with former boss and “SportsNation” creator Jamie Horowitz.
Don’t forget her old on-air partner Cowherd, who’s looking for talent for his new podcast network, “The Volume,” with iHeartMedia.
One company that Beadle has talked to is Blue Wire, the independent founded by Kevin Jones, which currently boasts the new “WR1” football podcast by Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter and “Front and Center” basketball pod with Lisa Leslie and Chiney Ogwumike.
Wherever she lands next, the opinionated Beadle will likely look for the opportunity to say what she wants, how she wants. That could mean she’ll launch a company of her own ala Hill, Skipper and Le Batard. Or work with several partners, so she doesn’t have to toe the corporate line.
Beadle has been keeping a low profile. She emerged on social media to support former colleague Paul Pierce after he was ousted by ESPN. She couldn’t resist tweaking ESPN when the New York Times first published its explosive story on Nichols’ disparaging comments about Taylor on July 5.
“Did everybody have a good weekend?” asked Beadle on Instagram, along with a GIF of Ray Liotta laughing hysterically from “Goodfellas.”
Beadle’s representatives at ICM declined to comment.