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Media

‘NBA In Stephen A’s World’ Joins ABC/ESPN’s NBA Finals Coverage Plan

  • Stephen A. Smith to host his first alternate telecast for NBA Finals.
  • Mike Breen will call his record 18th NBA Finals.
Jokic in NBA Finals
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN/ABC are throwing all of their resources at the 2023 NBA Finals. 

The NBA is about to tip off billion-dollar media rights negotiations on what networks/streaming platforms will control NBA media rights into the 2030’s and beyond.

This season’s Finals between the Western Conference champion Denver Nuggets, led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, and the winner of Monday night’s Game 7 between the Miami Heat-Boston Celtics will tip off Thursday, June 1.

Here’s what Front Office Sports has learned in advance about ABC’s 21st straight year of NBA Finals coverage:

  • Earlier Game Times: For the first time in 20 years, the NBA will offer earlier game starts.  All weeknight games will tip off at 8:30 p.m. ET instead of the usual 9 p.m. ET start.  Weekend games will begin at 8 p.m. ET. It’s the first time since 2003, that the NBA has moved up the start times for the Finals, according to Sports Media Watch.
  • Network Firsts: ESPN’s biggest star, Stephen A. Smith, will present his first NBA Finals-specific version of his alternate telecast, “NBA in Stephen A. World,” on ESPN2 and ESPN+. Smith’s guest list for Game 1 will be announced closer to game time. And he will continue to star on ESPN’s “NBA Countdown” pregame show.
  • Records: Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer Mike Breen is poised to call his record-setting 18th NBA Finals. Ex-New York Knicks coach Van Gundy will call his record 17th Finals as an analyst. And Jackson will call his 15th Finals – the most-ever for a Black analyst in a major championship event. Between them, Breen, Van Gundy, and Jackson will call their record 15th NBA Finals together (Breen and sideline reporter Lisa Salters won Sports Emmys last week).
  • Pregame Show: Mike Greenberg will host the “NBA Countdown” studio show, with analysts Smith, Jalen Rose, Michael Wilbon, and insider Adrian Wojnarowski. Meanwhile, host Cassidy Hubbath and senior writer Brian Windhorst will lead coverage of “Hoops Streams,” ESPN’s digital pregame show.
  • Lead-In: ESPN’s “NBA Today” will go live at 3 p.m. from the site of that day’s NBA Finals. Host Malika Andrews will lead coverage with analysts Richard Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Chiney Ogwumike, senior writers Windhorst, Zach Lowe, Ramona Shelburne, and Wojnarowski. 
  • ESPN Radio: Doris Burke, P.J. Carlesimo, Marc Kestecher, and Ros Gold-Onwude will call the Finals nationally on the radio. Burke is calling her fourth NBA Finals.
  • ESPN.com: Reporters Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell and Zach Lowe will also provide coverage. Day 1 will feature a piece exploring the turning point in Jokić’s pro career.

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ABC/ESPN will also be trying to push the envelope technology-wise during the Finals.

The sister Disney networks will employ 55 total cameras, 15 high frame rate Super Slo Mo cameras, and an in-arena SkyCam. And look for live Drone coverage, plus a three-point distance tracker.

The broadcasts will begin with a custom opening featuring recording artist H.E.R.’s track, “The Journey.”

Entering the Finals, ESPN has posted its most-watched NBA Playoffs in 11 years. Through 31 games, telecasts are averaging 5,579,000 viewers, up 9% from last season.

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