As on-air layoffs and departures reshape ESPN’s basketball coverage, ex-”NBA Countdown” host Michelle Beadle says the network’s pregame show will never be as good as rival TNT.
Beadle, who hosted “NBA Countdown” on ESPN and ABC from 2016-2019, lamented Disney’s quick trigger to change hosts as a reason why the studio show lags behind TNT’s “Inside the NBA” pregame show and its decades-long continuity of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal.
“That position and that show has never been allowed to marinate and it’s sort of why you continue to see change,” Beadle says. “It’s unfortunate and it’s why TNT dominates because they’re allowed to marinate for decades and the product gets better with year after year. So that’s my simple take on what I observed while I was there [at ESPN].”
Beadle, who also co-hosted “Get Up” and “SportsNation” during her eight-year tenure at ESPN, spoke to Front Office Sports while announcing her new basketball podcast with Amazon’s Wondery network. NBA Countdown has to find a replacement this upcoming season for analyst Jalen Rose, who had been on the show since 2012 and was laid off in June alongside ESPN’s cuts to fellow top NBA broadcasters Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson.
“It sucks when layoffs happen. It’s a tough conversation that people try to have. I know everyone thinks they understand why these things happen, but I don’t think anybody truly gets it,” Beadle told Front Office Sports.
Since Shaq joined TNT in 2011 as the final mainstay on “Inside the NBA,” “NBA Countdown” has gone through five hosts who are no longer on the show (Maria Taylor, Sage Steele, Doris Burke, Beadle, and Hannah Storm). The longest-tenured current host is Mike Greenberg, who joined in 2021. Malika Andrews has hosted since 2022 alongside current analysts Richard Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Chiney Ogwumike, Stephen A. Smith, and Michael Wilbon.
NBA analyst Vince Carter is expected to have his ESPN contract expire this summer, while Max Kellerman was another casualty of the network’s June layoffs. Beadle, who calls games on TV for the San Antonio Spurs in addition to her new Wondery podcast, is eager to see her former ESPN colleagues land new gigs elsewhere that could let talent “be themselves.”
“I love seeing people that I enjoy and respect and loved working with being released into the wild,” Beadle said. “And to be honest with you, most of the time in a more free platform and they get to be themselves, which is what I love.”