If you were up late watching ESPN Wednesday night, you were treated to Bill Walton as part of the broadcast team for the Trail Blazers vs. Warriors matchup. In 2012 Walton rejoined ESPN as a game analyst for Pac-12 basketball, but it was the NBA where Walton became a unique and popular broadcaster during the 90’s and early 2000’s.
When I flipped to ESPN and heard Walton, I quickly checked Twitter to see if others were as surprised and excited to hear Walton back on an NBA broadcast. Walton’s jump back to the NBA for one game was part of an ESPN promotion, “The Crossover,” which began in 2014.
“The Crossover” sees NBA and college basketball analysts’ switch sports for one game. Walton and Dick Vitale joined NBA broadcasts, Hubie Brown and P.J. Carlesimo did a college game. The former Trail Blazer joined Dave Pasch and Doris Burke on the call.
Walton joined NBC in 1990 following a Hall-of-Fame basketball career, he left for ESPN in 2002, retiring in 2009 due to a back injury suffered in college. While at NBC, Walton was often paired with analyst and former Trail Blazer teammate, Steve “Snapper” Jones who passed away last November at the age of 75.
Walton has been back with ESPN since 2012 covering the Pac-12 which doesn’t require as much travel as when he regularly did NBA games. He was grateful and excited about the opportunity to join Pasch and Burke for Wednesday night’s NBA broadcast.
“It was fantastic. The guys could not have been nicer,” Walton said. “They have to do this every day. But they could not have been more accommodating from top to bottom with the entire franchise. This is their job, but they are inspirational and incredibly rewarding. I learned a lot. But that’s why they’re the standard of excellence in today’s NBA, from the top to everybody.”
NBA fans weren’t the only ones excited to hear Walton back on an NBA broadcast, “Behind the mic, whether you love him or hate him or whether you want to go into that wild journey he always takes you when he’s calling the games,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said, “it’s always fun.”
“He’s obviously a little nuts in a really good way,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said with a smile. “He has a really good outlook on life. He has a lot of spirit and a lot of joy. He’s fun to be around.”
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Roger Goodell: ‘Wouldn’t Surprise Me’ To See Thursday Night Football Move to Flex Scheduling
“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon.”
In 2023, Monday Night Football will join Sunday Night Football in having the ability to flex NFL games into its window. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday Night Football could someday join that elite club.
During his “State of the League” speech Wednesday, Goodell said Thursday Night Football having the ability to flex matchups “wouldn’t at all surprise me”.
“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon,” the NFL Commissioner said.
ESPN bargained for the ability to move higher profile games into Monday Night Football during its negotiations with the league for the next television contract that begins this upcoming season.
NBC has long held the ability to shift a select number of games from earlier windows into the Sunday Night Football primetime slot.
Amazon Prime Video just completed the first of an 11-year contract that sees the streaming platform spend nearly $1 billion per year on the Thursday Night Football package.
One of the largest storylines of Amazon’s debut season with the NFL was the near-constant ridicule from play-by-play announcer Al Michaels over the lackluster TNF schedule. Michaels made headlines over several weeks for his candor on the lack of interesting matchups, going as far as to joke that if the schedule didn’t improve he would retire.
Michael Irvin Removed From NFL Network Super Bowl Coverage
“I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds.”
A complaint from a female to NFL Network has caused the network to remove Michael Irvin from its Super Bowl coverage.
NFL Network did not comment on the nature of the complaint or the allegation of any impropriety by Irvin, simply stating Irvin would not be a participant in coverage of the event from Arizona.
“Michael Irvin will not be a part of NFL Network’s Super Bowl LVII week coverage,” said NFL Media Vice President of Communications Alex Riethmiller in a statement.
Irvin claimed the interaction happened during a brief moment Sunday after having dinner and drinks with former Cowboy defensive back Michael Brooks.
“This all happened in a 45-second conversation in the lobby,” Irvin told The Dallas Morning News. “When I got back after going out … I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds. We shook hands. Then, I left…That’s all I know.”
Irvin, 56, admitted he didn’t recall the conversation between him and the female but called the interaction “just a friendly conversation”. He defended himself by saying “There was definitely nothing physical”.
The report from The Dallas Morning News added that Glendale police officials do not know about any incident regarding Irvin.
A report from Front Office Sports claims ESPN executives are “poised to pull the plug” on Irvin’s scheduled appearance on First Take from Radio Row Friday.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer has been with NFL Network since 2009, and in August of last year signed an extension to remain with the cable channel.
Pro Bowl Lowest Rated Since 2006
While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues.
The NFL completely revamped its Pro Bowl format for the 2022 season, and the changes did not garner more viewers.
An average of 6.28 million viewers tuned into the event across ABC, ESPN, and DisneyXD Sunday for the first 7-on-7 event. That number is a decrease of 6% compared to last year and is the lowest-rated Pro Bowl since the 2006 event saw just 5.96 million viewers. That figure excludes the 2021 Pro Bowl, which was a “virtual” event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest-rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues, with the MLB All-Star Game seeing an average viewership of 7.51 million. The 6.28 million who watched the Pro Bowl is a virtual tie with last season’s NBA All-Star Game.
The Pro Bowl Skills Challenge — now produced by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions — did see a large increase in viewership compared to last year. More than 1 million viewers tuned into the Thursday night primetime event, which is the second-best figure on record. That audience is a 23% increase compared to last year’s event.