Magic Johnson and Michael Wilbon will rejoin ESPN’s NBA pregame show, NBA Countdown, on a limited basis this season, the network announced today. Johnson will work the Christmas slate of games, before joining Wilbon and host Sage Steele for ABC’s nine Saturday broadcasts of the NBA.
Johnson and Wilbon were both previously full-time analysts on NBA Countdown, serving for five and three years respectively, before leaving in 2013. We reported at the time that Johnson’s sudden departure from the show was due to ESPN handing the keys over to Bill Simmons, and marginalizing Wilbon in the process. Simmons would only last one more year on NBA Countdown before bailing for the Grantland Basketball Hour, and eventually ESPN president John Skipper decided not to renew his contract.
Now that Simmons is gone from ESPN and probably off TV for awhile, Johnson and Wilbon have returned. But the bigger question is: Why? The Johnson and Wilbon NBA Countdown was anemic, which had little to do with Simmons. Johnson is one of the greatest players in basketball history, and has also never once uttered anything remotely interesting about the sport. Wilbon is better, but not much, and usually merits attention for the wrong reasons. Sage Steele will have a tough time wringing anything useful from them.