Stan Van Gundy came right out and said the reason he is not one of the studio hosts for ESPN’s NBA Countdown studio show (the one that wraps around their game broadcasts on ESPN and ABC) was that David Stern and the NBA shut him out.
His brother Jeff Van Gundy — the lead analyst on ESPN’s broadcasts — basically confirmed that. And rightfully said it left him with journalistic questions.
Jeff, who hadn’t previously spoken publicly on the issue until an interview with USA TODAY Sports, says his brother “had a basic agreement” to become an ESPN/ABC analyst in the marquee studio shows that wrap around game coverage: “And then something changed. There’s certainly circumstantial evidence that something from the outside — presumably the NBA — changed (ESPN’s) thinking. … I was happy when they came to an agreement and shocked when they pulled their offer.”
ESPN eventually put together a foursome of Jalen Rose, Bill Simmons, Magic Johnson and Michael Wilbon. While I would have liked SVG on the show, that lineup should be an improvement over what they had last year.
As an analyst who gets paid to be critical at times of the league, Jeff called what the league did a “shot across the bow.”
Jeff’s big picture: “This is an organization that’s treated me great. But this raises interesting questions about what a (league-network) partnership means. You have to realize, as a fan, you’re not getting the whole truth. … It seems like there are certain people in each sport that (TV) can’t criticize, or you can’t criticize the league itself. That’s what impressed me when (ESPN’s) Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden criticized the NFL over replacement refs. That (Commissioner) Roger Goodell didn’t throw a hissy fit at ESPN was impressive.”
Leagues can be very controlling by their nature. They want to spin things the same way the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney camps want to spin things. And in the case of the leagues, they have some leverage with the networks that broadcast their games because those rights come up for renewal.
All it means is that you need to be an educated media consumer in today’s market. There is no perfect, unbiased source of information on anything. Your job as a consumer of media is to understand that, notice the patters and see through it where you need to.
And that includes NBA broadcasts.