Turns out Doug Collins joining ESPN’s NBA Countdown crew — he replaces Michael Wilbon — isn’t the only major change behind the desk for this upcoming season. Today, Magic Johnson announced he would be leaving ESPN due to other commitments:
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.
ESPN also released a statement about Magic’s departure:
Earvin “Magic” Johnson informed us today that he’ll no longer be part of our NBA coverage due to his other commitments. We appreciate Magic’s contributions and wish him well in his future endeavors. We are in the process of determining our NBA commentator roles for the upcoming season.
His replacement is the absolutely fantastic Doris Burke, who has been doing killer commentary for years as a color analyst on ESPN’s NBA broadcasts. Burke will act as a hybrid host/analyst on a panel that includes the aforementioned Collins, Jalen Rose, Bill Simmons, and a possible substitute combination of P.J. Carlesimo and Avery Johnson. Burke’s presence will be much-welcomed — that is, if Countdown producers ever allowed the panel to actually, you know, analyze.
UPDATE: According to Deadspin’s inside sources, Magic’s departure is related to the fact NBA Countdown has become Bill Simmons’ show:
ESPN sources tell us that Johnson’s departure was the result of an old-fashioned power war, with one very clear winner: Bill Simmons. “It’s Simmons’s show now,” said one source.
Magic apparently was not at all happy when ESPN told his buddy Michael Wilbon that his role on NBA Countdown would be diminished. He was “booted,” according to one source. Another ESPN insider also said that Magic was “privately seething over the Wilbon thing and in general did not like that Simmons held all the power and influence.” Magic didn’t necessarily need the power, our sources explained; he just didn’t feel like kowtowing to Simmons when he’s, well, Magic Johnson.
“The bottom line is they turned that show over to Simmons,” said our source. “That’s why Doug Collins got hired and why Wilbon was out.”
UPDATE 2: Bill Simmons weighs in:
My first experience today with someone writing a “sources” report about me that’s not true. Part amusing, part horrifying.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) October 10, 2013