Magic Johnson leaves ESPN’s NBA Countdown

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I have to get my bias here out up front: Magic Johnson is my all-time favorite player. I think his combination of size, handles and passing skills were unique in the sport and let to the most entertaining basketball we’ve seen. Plus, he had cultural impacts far off the court that are even more important.

But he was a terrible analyst. Just awful. I just could not watch him on ESPN’s NBA pregame countdown shows.

So I didn’t shed a tear when it was announced by ESPN on Thursday that he is out of the NBA Countdown show this season. Johnson released a statement through ESPN:

“I love ESPN. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my schedule and other commitments, I don’t feel confident that I can continue to devote the time needed to thrive in my role. I will always feel a strong connection to the ESPN family and I enjoyed working with them very much.”

The timing of this, three weeks before the start of the season, is a surprise.

There were reports that Johnson feuded with Bill Simmons (who is tight with Jalen Rose, making up half of the pregame show), but Simmons disputed that and I know Johnson and Simmons were friendly off air. Mike Wilbon’s role is being reduced as well.

Who is in? Doug Collins for one, the former Sixer coach signed on and we knew he’d have a larger role. There also could be a role for Doris Burke who was going to be in the studio on Wednesday’s but could do more, reports the USA Today.

For my money, more Burke is good. She is smart, professional and knows the game. We’ll see how the chemistry shakes out between all of them, but this show may take a step forward this season.

Its biggest challenge is trying to match the incredible chemistry and just watchability of Inside the NBA on TNT Thursdays, with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal. That show is the gold standard.