Bad news for people who believe the events of an NBA basketball game are best accompanied by the inane, runaway chit-chat of Dennis Scott and Kevin McHale: TNT has apparently decided to axe its Players Only broadcasts and presumably will reintroduce competent play-by-play commentators to all future NBA broadcasts. Our long national nightmare may finally be over.
TNT debuted the Players Only broadcasts in February 2017 as a weekly gimmick for late-season Monday doubleheaders. The format put a rotating cast of prominent former players in every on-air role, including at the desk of the studio and in play-by-play and sideline reporter roles during games. This mostly meant Chris Webber hosting the studio show, roughly in Ernie Johnson’s role, and Greg Anthony handling play-by-play, and way too much Dennis Scott. As a once weekly thing it sucked but seemed mostly harmless, especially while it was easy enough to switch over to League Pass in order to get commentators who would actually pay attention to the game.
For reasons passing understanding, TNT re-upped the format for the 2017–2018 season, and then NBA TV expanded it, and by the end of last season it seemed like every other nationally broadcast NBA game was being called by some combination of dopey former players with the attention spans of sugar-drunk third-graders, badly lacking the steadying influence of professional play-by-play help. Very rarely this yielded something funny or interesting, like Kevin McHale calling some former acquaintance a “dickhead” during a break in action. Most of the time it made for a sloppy show, and very often the lack of an enthusiastic play-by-play commentator led to rambling, bored-sounding commentary. It sucked. Good riddance.