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The Hoop Doctors

Who Should Replace Mark Jackson on ESPN’s Broadcast Crew?

June 29, 2011 – Kevin Burke

There’s nothing worse than having a good game destroyed by poor commentating. The announcers are part of the experience for us at home watching the game and truly play a vital role in how the game is enjoyed by viewers. Luckily, during the Finals, we were subject to routinely stellar commentating. That’s because the Finals were aired on ABC and the normal ESPN/ABC crew is Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. These guys work so well together because Breen is the normal play by play man for the Knicks on the MSG Network, Van Gundy is a closet comedian and seldom, if ever, bites his tongue, and Jackson is a 17 year NBA vet who also speaks his mind – just like Van Gundy.

What made this crew so special was that Van Gundy and Jackson often became engaged in playful, yet serious, debates about certain happenings on the court. They would probably carry on longer than the producers would like at certain times, but it was always entertaining and heightened the experience of watching games. One of their classic debates was regarding flopping. While Jeff staunchly contests that flopping diminishes the integrity of the game, Mark believes that if you can get away with it, you should do it. Given the frequency of flops, that topic came up often and they would go at it. Much to the amusement of Breen, I’m sure.

As we know, Mark Jackson was hired as head coach of the Golden State Warriors  near the end of the season, so Game 6 of the NBA Finals was his last game as a broadcaster as he must step down to assume his new role. While I’m happy that Jackson was given the opportunity to prove his aptitude as a head coach, selfishly, part of me was upset that he got the Warriors gig because I knew that meant I’d no longer get to hear him bicker with Van Gundy. So with his departure, who should replace him?

Here are the more visible ESPN NBA analysts and my take on them replacing Jackson:
Mike Wilbon, Chris Broussard, Ric Bucher – Do not qualify because I think it should be another former player or coach.
Jon Barry – No, because he often times looks like a deer caught in head lights and tries too hard to be funny.
Magic Johnson – No, because frankly, I don’t think he’s that good on TV. I think he’s only in that role because he’s one of the greatest ball players that has ever lived which makes him extremely credible.
Bruce Bowen – No, because that bow tie would drive me crazy.
Jalen Rose – I could live with it, but I think he’s best served in the studio.
Jamal Mashburn – He’s solid, but no.

That leaves one more highly visibly analyst from the network, and is who I regard as ESPN’s best former-player-turned-analyst: Tim Legler. Legs always has something thought provoking to say and doesn’t necessarily try to be funny. He’s more focused on content, is very insightful and I think he’d do a good job alongside Van Gundy. I could see them two getting into it, making it entertaining for us at home.

But if we’re talking about someone who isn’t currently part of the ESPN family, I’d pick Greg Anthony who was once with the network. I don’t care if we’re talking about college or pro, Greg Anthony is the best basketball analyst on TV, period. Back in March when I represented The Hoop Doctors at a March Madness event and had the opportunity to speak with Greg, I was amazed at the stats and overall recollection that he demonstrated on just about every team in the tournament. When he’s on TV for CBS’ college coverage, he’s always equally as prepared. Then, he turns around and displays the same acumen for the NBA on NBA-TV. Few guys on TV toggle back and forth between the two. My only qualm is that Anthony doesn’t provide the comedic relief that Jackson does which may make it a bit awkward with Van Gundy initially. He’s not a stiff, but he’s generally there to get the job done.

I don’t think they can leave Breen and Van Gundy alone by themselves because Van Gundy needs a sparring partner and Breen is too busy calling the game. Therefore, if it were up to me, it would be Legler or Anthony, but I’d be satisfied with either. But who knows what direction the network will go.

If you’re looking for your everyday, predictable basketball talk, then you’ve come to the wrong place, because Kevin Burke of The Kevin Burke Project brings provocative, thought provoking content about basketball as only he can. Kevin also hosts The Hoop Doctors weekly podcast show, which you can subscribe to for free on iTunes. Follow Kevin on Twitter and Facebook

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