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|The NBA on ABC|
Jeff Van Gundy
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||150 minutes+
Subject to change
|Original channel||ABC (1965–1973, 2002–)|
|Original run||January 3, 1965 – May 10, 1973 – December 25, 2002 – present|
ABC's Coverage of the NBA on ESPN is a presentation of National Basketball Association games on ABC. ABC televises fifteen games during the regular season, starting with a doubleheader on Christmas Day, followed by the NBA Sunday Showcase on select Sunday afternoons through the remainder of the regular season. ABC airs up to nine games from the first two rounds of the NBA Playoffs. When not airing games in its usual Sunday afternoon slot, it is known as ESPN's Coverage of the NBA on ABC. During the NBA Finals, ABC presents games in prime time, mostly at 9:00 p.m. ET, when it is known as ESPN's Coverage of the NBA Finals on ABC.
Since its return to ABC in 2002, the show has been produced by sister network ESPN (a similar arrangement was made when ABC broadcast National Hockey League games), and since 2006 has transferred all of its operations to ESPN, when ABC Sports became ESPN on ABC (ABC Sports, however, is still a separate legal entity). Since then, it has been an ESPN program, and only has been identified as ABC's coverage of the NBA on ESPN. This is the second time NBA games have aired on ABC; from 1965 to 1973, ABC was the main broadcaster of the NBA.
It was announced on June 27, 2007 that the NBA on ABC had been renewed through the 2015–2016 season.
In late 2001, the National Basketball Association was in the midst of putting together a new television deal. At the time, conventional wisdom was that NBC would renew its deal with the NBA and continue airing games. An article by the Sports Business Daily c. October 5, 2001, cited Richard Sandomir of the New York Times as saying:
|“||[it would be] difficult to imagine the NBA being so overwhelmed by an ESPN offer that it would let [ESPN] team up for a broadcast deal with ABC that would yield fewer games, promotion and exposure.||”|
The negotiations were closely watched by those in the business world, as it was the first time a league crafted a television deal in the new economic environment since 9/11. Declining television ratings on NBC had already led many[who?] to believe that the NBA's next television rights fee would be lower than previous years, and the economic recession made that a likely scenario. As predicted, NBC's offer to the league was lower than the previous agreement's amount. Had the NBA agreed to the network's offer, it would have been the first sports league to undergo a decline in rights fees. The NBA rejected NBC's offer and after the network's exclusive negotiating period with the league expired, ABC and ESPN stepped in. On January 22, 2002, the NBA signed a six-year deal with the Walt Disney Company and (then) AOL Time Warner, which resulted in ABC, ESPN, and TNT acquiring the rights to air league games. ABC and ESPN will reportedly pay an average of about $400 million a season. Technically, ESPN pays the NBA for its broadcast rights and "buys" time on ABC to air select games. In all, the contract allowed the NBA to increase its rights fees by 25 percent.
On the deal, NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol had this to say:
|“||The definition of winning has become distorted. If winning the rights to a property brings with it hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, what have you won? When faced with the prospect of heavy financial losses, we have consistently walked away and have done so again.... We wish the NBA all the best. We have really enjoyed working with them for more than a decade to build the NBA brand.||”|
In its first five years of covering the NBA, ABC has had three lead play-by-play announcers, six lead announcing teams, an anticipated six theme songs, five graphics packages, five pregame shows, six sets of studio teams, and the lowest Nielsen ratings the NBA has ever seen.
Each season, ABC begins their NBA coverage with a Christmas Day doubleheader (with the exception of 2004 and 2006, when they broadcast only one game). For three years (2004–2006) ABC insisted on having a Christmas Day game between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers. Since 2009, ABC's Christmas Day doubleheader has featured a music video featuring Mariah Carey singing "All I Want for Christmas Is You." In 2010, Carey was featured singing "Oh Santa!"
Following this, Sunday afternoon coverage begins in mid-January or early February. The number of Sunday afternoon regular season games that ABC normally covers is significantly lower than its predecessor NBC. In its first season of coverage, ABC aired 14 regular-season games, in comparison to NBC's yearly average of 33 games. That number increased to 18 games in the next two seasons, and 20 games in the 2005–06 season. For 2006–07, ABC decreased the number of games it aired, offering 19. When asked by Jim Rome in 2002 about the number of games on ABC, NBA commissioner David Stern made this comment:
|“||Cable and satellite (programming is) increasingly available to everybody who wants it. On ABC, you're going to see us on as many or more Sundays during the regular season as NBC is now, but fewer triple-headers and double-headers, and frankly, we think that the triple-headers and double-headers, which we favored in the past, don't work. It's too hard to get people to sit through six and eight-and-a-half hours of NBA on (TV), and it's good to be on cable during the week because that's where our fans are looking for our games||”|
By contrast to Stern's assessment, the media and many fans found that the cable-heavy TV deal made many games unavailable and, in addition, devalued the league. Starting with the second round of the playoffs, TNT's NBA coverage becomes exclusive, meaning that no local broadcasts can compete. Because of this, fans of teams in the playoffs without cable are unable to watch many playoff games unless they have satellite TV. Also, ABC's coverage is always exclusive, including in the regular season. If a game is on the air opposite an ABC televised game, it cannot be televised locally. This results in some games not being aired on television at all. The Sports Business Daily quoted Houston Chronicle writer Jonathan Feigen as saying:
|“||[the NBA] seemed to marginalize the product, treating their sport as small and their playoffs as no more important than one of 162 Atlanta Braves games.||”|
In addition, unlike NBC or NBC's predecessor CBS, ABC doesn't televise the NBA All-Star Game (instead, going to TNT). Also unlike the other networks, ABC rarely televises either of the NBA's Conference Finals series. Each year, TNT will air one Conference Final exclusively (the Western Conference Finals in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2005, 2007, and 2009), while ESPN will get the other. With the exception of 2004, 2010, and 2012 (when they aired no Conference Final games at all), ABC airs only the weekend telecasts ESPN's Conference Final coverage. Due to the every-other-day schedule of the NBA playoffs, this is limited to one game per conference final, as series do not often reach a sixth or seventh game. For example, the network aired only Game 3 of the 2009 Western Conference Finals; it was scheduled to air the Sunday Game 7 of the series but did not because the Los Angeles Lakers won the series in six games.
Outside of the Conference Finals, ABC generally airs playoff games throughout the first five weeks of the NBA Playoffs, in addition to a number of special prime-time playoff games, usually televised on Thursday or Saturday nights. In 2005, ABC aired the first non-cable Memorial Day game in three years, when the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs battled in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Prior to the most recent NBA TV deal, Memorial Day playoff games had become a yearly tradition on network TV.
Unlike previous broadcast partners, ABC has never aired a non-Christmas regular season game after 3:30 p.m. ET. While NBC had several 5:30 p.m. start times for games, ABC has only gone beyond that time on Christmas, and for select playoff games, including the Finals. On March 20, 2005, ABC aired a pair of games regionally (San Antonio Spurs–Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns–Memphis Grizzlies) at 3:30 p.m. When the Spurs–Pistons game ended, the network did not switch the audience to the Suns–Grizzlies game (which was 94–91 late in the fourth quarter). Instead, viewers were sent to their local news. NBC rarely committed this practice, instead sending viewers of the completed game to view the end of the one still in progress.
In its first year of coverage, ABC used exactly the same graphics as partner ESPN; only the "score bug" was different. This habit had already been put into practice by the network in regards to their NHL and college basketball coverage. However, ABC did have their own graphics (though similar to ESPN's at the time) for college football and other sports. For the 2003–04 season, ABC established new graphics for the NBA, in an effort to differentiate their telecasts from ESPN's. On February 5, 2006, ABC established an all-new graphics package, including a Monday Night Football-esque bottomline scoreboard for the NBA.
ESPN, and by proxy ABC, began using graphics packages inherited by ESPN's Monday Night Football beginning in 2006, featuring a scoreboard with a slanted red and white design, replaced in April 2009 with a more compact design in grey with panel-like lower thirds. This was replaced in 2010 with an updated appearance based off another redesign adopted by Monday Night Football in late 2009, featuring a more metallic appearance which would later be adopted by other ESPN properties, and the addition of yellow lights to indicate remaining timeouts. At the start of the 2011-12 season, an updated version of the design was adopted with a more translucent appearance, and the addition of an indicator under a team's score if they have reached enough fouls to initiate the Bonus situation. Starting with the 2013 Western Conference Finals, a newly designed banner featuring 3D renditions of the team logos and customized fonts were adopted.
One common complaint about NBA coverage on ABC is of strange camera angles, including the Floorcam and Skycam angles used by ABC throughout its coverage. Other complaints are of camera angles that appear too far away, colors that seem faded and dull, and the quieting of crowd noise so that announcers can be heard clearly (by contrast to NBC, which allowed crowd noise to sometimes drown out their announcers).
Some complaints have concerned the promotion, or perceived lack thereof, of NBA telecasts. The 2003 NBA Finals received very little fanfare on ABC or corporate partner ESPN; while subsequent Finals were promoted more on both networks, NBA related advertisements on ABC were still down significantly from promotions on NBC. NBA promos took up 3 minutes and 55 seconds of airtime on ABC during the week of May 23, 2004 according to the Sports Business Daily, comparable to 2 minutes and 45 seconds for the Indianapolis 500. Promotions for the Indianapolis 500 outnumbered promotions for the NBA Finals fourteen-to-nine from the hours of 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm during that week.
They were also criticized for focusing coverage on a select few teams, particularly the decision to schedule the Lakers against the Heat on Christmas Day for three straight years. However, for 2007, ABC has decided to break this tradition by instead having the Heat, for the fourth straight time, appear on Christmas Day facing the 2007 Eastern Conference Champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2008, the Boston Celtics replaced the Heat on the Christmas Day schedule and faced the Los Angeles Lakers. And in 2009 the Cleveland Cavaliers played the Lakers on Christmas Day. However, the Heat-Lakers Christmas Day special would make its return in the 2010-11 NBA season, due to the arrival of LeBron James to Miami. For the 2011-12 NBA season, the Lakers and Heat played again on Christmas Day, but against separate opponents. The Lakers played the Chicago Bulls, while the Heat played the Dallas Mavericks in a rematch of the 2011 NBA Finals; both the Bulls and Mavericks made their ABC Christmas Day debuts, which also acted as the league's opening day that season due to the 2011 NBA lockout delaying the season's start. In the case of the latter, ABC aired the pre-game championship ring and banner ceremony for the Mavericks, which marked the first time in NBA history a national terrestrial television network aired the championship ring and banner ceremony.
ABC has changed the name its pregame show five times in five seasons, and has rotated several analysts in each season. For the 2006-2007 season, the pregame show is known as NBA Sunday Countdown. Each season, the show has been sponsored by GMC, with exception of the Finals, where it is sponsored by Chevrolet. Mike Tirico hosted the pregame show from ABC's first season with the NBA to the middle of the network's fourth with the league. On March 19, 2006, Tirico was replaced by ESPN's Dan Patrick, as Tirico was moved to the number two play-by-play team. On Christmas Day 2007, Stuart Scott became the new studio host, replacing Patrick, who left the network. Other hosts of the pregame show include former regular substitute John Saunders.
|2010s NBA Finals broadcasters|
|Year||TV||Play by play||Color||Sideline||Pregame host||Pregame analysts||Trophy presentation|
|2013||ABC||Mike Breen||Jeff Van Gundy||Doris Burke||Michael Wilbon||Jalen Rose, Magic Johnson and Bill Simmons||Doris Burke|
|2012||ABC||Mike Breen||Jeff Van Gundy||Doris Burke||Michael Wilbon||Jon Barry and Magic Johnson||Stuart Scott|
|2011||ABC||Mike Breen||Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy||Doris Burke||Stuart Scott||Jon Barry, Michael Wilbon and Magic Johnson||Stuart Scott|
|2010||ABC||Mike Breen||Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy||Doris Burke||Stuart Scott||Jon Barry, Michael Wilbon and Magic Johnson||Stuart Scott|
|2000s NBA Finals broadcasters|
|Year||TV||Play by play||Color||Sideline||Pregame host||Pregame analysts||Trophy presentation|
|2009||ABC||Mike Breen||Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy||Doris Burke||Stuart Scott||Jon Barry, Michael Wilbon and Magic Johnson||Stuart Scott|
|2008||ABC||Mike Breen||Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy||Michele Tafoya||Stuart Scott||Jon Barry, Michael Wilbon and guest analysts||Stuart Scott|
|2007||ABC||Mike Breen||Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy||Michele Tafoya and Stuart Scott||Dan Patrick||Jon Barry, Michael Wilbon, and Grant Hill||Dan Patrick|
|2006||ABC||Mike Breen||Hubie Brown||Lisa Salters and Stuart Scott||Dan Patrick||Mark Jackson and Michael Wilbon||Dan Patrick|
|2005||ABC||Al Michaels||Hubie Brown||Michele Tafoya and Stuart Scott||Mike Tirico||Bill Walton and Greg Anthony||Mike Tirico|
|2004||ABC||Al Michaels||Doc Rivers||Michele Tafoya and Stuart Scott||Mike Tirico||Tom Tolbert and Byron Scott||Mike Tirico|
|2003||ABC||Brad Nessler||Bill Walton and Tom Tolbert||Michele Tafoya and Stuart Scott||Mike Tirico||Sean Elliott and guest analysts||Mike Tirico|
|2002||NBC||Marv Albert||Bill Walton and Steve Jones||Jim Gray and Lewis Johnson||Bob Costas and Ahmad Rashād||Tom Tolbert||Ahmad Rashād|
|2001||NBC||Marv Albert||Doug Collins||Jim Gray and Lewis Johnson||Ahmad Rashād||Kevin Johnson and P. J. Carlesimo||Ahmad Rashād|
|2000||NBC||Bob Costas||Doug Collins||Ahmad Rashād and Jim Gray||Hannah Storm||Isiah Thomas, Bill Walton and Steve Jones||Ahmad Rashād|
|1970s NBA Finals broadcasters|
|Year||TV||Play by play||Color||Sideline||Pregame host||Pregame analysts||Trophy presentation|
|1979||CBS||Brent Musburger||Rick Barry and Rod Hundley||N/A||N/A|
|1978||CBS||Brent Musburger||Rick Barry and John Havlicek||N/A||N/A|
|1977||CBS||Brent Musburger||Rick Barry and Steve Jones||N/A||N/A|
|1976||CBS||Brent Musburger||Mendy Rudolph and Rick Barry||Sonny Hill||N/A||Mendy Rudolph|
|1975||CBS||Brent Musburger||Oscar Robertson||N/A||N/A|
|1974||CBS||Pat Summerall||Rick Barry and Rod Hundley||N/A||N/A|
|1973||ABC||Keith Jackson||Bill Russell||N/A||N/A|
|1972||ABC||Keith Jackson||Bill Russell||N/A||N/A|
|1971||ABC||Chris Schenkel||Jack Twyman||N/A||N/A|
|1970||ABC||Chris Schenkel||Jack Twyman||N/A||Howard Cosell||N/A||Howard Cosell|
|1960s NBA Finals broadcasters|
|Year||TV||Games||Play by play||Color||Sideline||Pregame host||Pregame analysts||Trophy presentation|
|1969||ABC||3, 5-7||Chris Schenkel||Jack Twyman||N/A||N/A|
|Synd.||4||Bob Wolff||Ed Macauley|
|1968||ABC||1, 4||Chris Schenkel||Jack Twyman||N/A||N/A|
|1967||ABC||2, 5||Chris Schenkel||Jack Twyman||N/A||N/A|
|1966||ABC||1, 5||Chris Schenkel||Bob Cousy||N/A||N/A|
|Synd.||7||Bob Wolff||Jack Twyman|
|1965||ABC||1, 5||Chris Schenkel||Bob Cousy||N/A||N/A|
|1964||No national coverage|
|1963||No national coverage|
|1962||NBC||1, 2||Bob Wolff||Bud Palmer||N/A||N/A|
|1961||NBC||1, 3, 4||Lindsey Nelson||Bud Palmer||N/A||N/A|
|1960||NBC||1, 3-4, 7||Lindsey Nelson||Curt Gowdy||N/A||N/A|
After getting NBA rights, ABC courted two main announcers from the NBA on NBC, Bob Costas and Marv Albert. After Costas, (who was reportedly offered a generous deal which also included Major League Baseball play-by-play for ESPN and ABC News features) elected to remain with NBC, and Albert signed a six-year deal with TNT, the network went with veteran broadcaster Brad Nessler to be the lead NBA play-by-play man. Nessler, who prior to that point had not been the main voice for any professional sport on television, received a call from Marv Albert's agent, soon after getting the job. On the call, the Internet Movie Database quoted him as saying:
|“||I need to know everybody and you can't know everybody and Marv knows everyone.... So, I'm just gonna use him as a valuable resource, if it's all right with him.||”|
Nessler was joined by Bill Walton in a two-man booth. Joining them was Michele Tafoya who served as the lead sideline reporter. The team did two broadcasts together before ABC decided that Walton needed a partner (much like he had at NBC with Steve Jones) and assigned pregame analyst Tom Tolbert to join the team. Nessler, Walton, and Tolbert broadcast most regular season games, and every network playoff game. Other games were broadcast by the team of Brent Musburger and Sean Elliott. After the worst ratings in NBA Finals history, low ratings overall, and harsh criticism, ABC decided to retool the team. More to the point, during this particular period, Brad Nessler was accused (among them, the New York Times' Richard Sandomir) of not knowing game strategy well, lacking rhythm and enthusiasm in his game call, not bringing out the best in his partners, too often ignoring the score, and tending to stammer.
This was also the only year that ABC broadcast both the NBA and the Stanley Cup Finals that involved teams from one city in the same year, as both the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey Devils were in their respective league's finals. During ABC's broadcast of Game 3 between the San Antonio Spurs and the Nets in New Jersey on June 8, Nessler, Tolbert, and Walton said that ABC was in a unique situation getting ready for both that game and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Devils and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim the following night. Gary Thorne, Bill Clement, and John Davidson mentioned this the following night and thanked Nessler, Tolbert, and Walton for promoting ABC's broadcast of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
After disastrous ratings in the 2003 NBA Finals, ABC decided to completely revamp their lead NBA broadcast team. Brad Nessler was demoted to the second broadcast team, where he was joined by Sean Elliott and Dan Majerle. Tom Tolbert was relegated to pregame show duties only, and Bill Walton was removed from ABC's NBA coverage altogether (he remained with ESPN). Meanwhile, longtime Monday Night Football commentator (and unofficial "Voice of ABC Sports") Al Michaels was hired to replace Nessler as lead broadcaster of the NBA. Michele Tafoya remained as its lead sideline reporter.
For the first several weeks of the 2003–2004 season, Michaels had no partner. However, Doc Rivers, a critically acclaimed analyst when he worked with Turner Sports, became available after a 1–19 start by his Orlando Magic. Rivers was hired weeks before ABC's Christmas Day season opener. He and Michaels worked that game together, one of only six they did together during the regular season (all other games Rivers worked were with Brad Nessler). During the playoffs, the team worked every single telecast, including the 2004 NBA Finals, which saw great improvement in television ratings.
During the 2004 NBA Playoffs, Doc Rivers was hired by the Boston Celtics. Though Rivers continued to work games with Al Michaels throughout the rest of the playoffs, ABC would have to find a new lead analyst for the 2004–2005 season. In addition, the network dropped Brad Nessler from all NBA coverage, and did not retain Sean Elliott or Dan Majerle.
Early in the 2004-2005 season, ABC found a new partner for Al Michaels. Memphis Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown, a broadcasting legend with CBS, TBS, and TNT, was forced into retirement due to health reasons and was soon after hired to replace Doc Rivers. Michaels and Brown began their partnership on Christmas Day 2004, working the highly anticipated Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant game. After that game, the two did not do a game together again until March 2005. Michaels became sporadic in NBA coverage, doing two games in early March, and then three more games in April. Brown worked every week of ABC's coverage, broadcasting some games with veteran broadcaster Mike Breen. Lead sideline reporter Michele Tafoya was on for all ABC games.
In addition to Hubie Brown, ABC added other known analysts to its NBA coverage. Jim Durham and Dr. Jack Ramsay both worked several games during the regular season, while Brent Musburger, John Saunders, Len Elmore, and Mark Jackson were involved with others. Mike Breen and Dr. Jack Ramsay were the first secondary broadcast team to work a playoff game for ABC. Breen called three playoff games for the network in 2005, the most notable being Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals with Hubie Brown.
Al Michaels was criticized by the New York Post for not broadcasting the game and seeming uninterested in the NBA in general. Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News said that Michaels was simply “not a basketball guy”. Meanwhile, Bill Simmons said during the 2005 Finals that Michaels “shows up for these games, does his job, then drives home thinking, "‘Only five weeks to the [NFL] Hall of Fame Game, I’m almost there!’" Another criticism that Michaels received was that he too often found himself in tediously long-winded explanations. In return, he would be talking over two or three possessions in a row (which Michaels seemed to be better suited for football and baseball broadcasts, for which he's better known for). The end result was that he would hardly have time to comment on the action viewers were seeing because he was so hung up on a prior subplot or storyline that he felt the audience just had to know about. Michaels was also accused of apparently lacking the kind of enthusiasm and confidence (for instance, Michaels initially reacted to Amare Stoudemire's block of Tim Duncan's shot during the 2005 playoffs by calling it a "great, great contested shot") expected of a #1 play-by-play voice.
Michaels, who had only broadcast a combined twelve regular season games with ABC (with all but one of those games airing from either Los Angeles, where he resides when not sportscasting, or Sacramento), did return for the NBA Finals, which scored its second lowest rating of all time (despite the fact that it was the first Finals in eleven years to go to a seventh game).
For the 2005-2006 season, Al Michaels and Hubie Brown were slated to remain as ABC's number one broadcast team. The duo worked that year's Christmas Day game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat and were expected to work the NBA Finals together as well. However, that plan did not come to fruition. After Michaels left ABC to cover Sunday Night Football for NBC, he was replaced by Mike Breen, who became the lead broadcaster for an over-the-air NBA package for the first time in his career. Breen worked the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals and 2006 NBA Finals with Hubie Brown for both ESPN and ABC, as well as all the main games ABC broadcast that year. The promotion of Breen gave ABC its first consistent lead broadcaster since Brad Nessler, as Breen worked games every week. Previously, Breen has worked the Eastern Conference Finals for NBC in 2001 and 2002, as well as the Western Conference Finals for ESPN in 2005.
Also that season Lisa Salters served as the lead sideline reporter for ABC's coverage of the NBA on ABC and worked the 2006 NBA Finals on television as that season she filled-in for Michele Tafoya who was on Maternity Leave. Salters returned to her role as its secondary sideline reporter the following year as Tafoya returned to her old role.
Many sports writers and sports television analysts praised Breen, some for his explosive voice and excited calls on game-deciding and game-winning shots and others for the fact that, unlike his predecessor Al Michaels, he was already very familiar with broadcasting basketball games and was essentially a basketball lifer. Despite that, he faced some criticism from those who complained that they would prefer a more established voice, such as Marv Albert or Kevin Harlan. Hubie Brown faced criticism from writers (most notably Richard Sandomir of the New York Times) as well as bloggers and viewers.
For the secondary broadcast team, ABC reunited Bill Walton and Steve Jones for game coverage. Walton and Jones worked the Christmas Day 2005 broadcast between the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons for ABC, the first game they called together since Game 4 of the 2002 NBA Finals for NBC (NBC's last NBA telecast to date). The pair worked their first broadcast with Mike Breen, and worked the remainder of the season with Brent Musburger, Jim Durham, and Mike Tirico. That team, along with the Breen-Brown duo, now often does games on ESPN's Wednesday or Friday coverage, which the previous ABC announce teams rarely did.
Al Michaels called a total of 37 games for the NBA on ABC, his last being Game 7 of the 2005 NBA Finals. Michaels finished his NBA on ABC career with a grand total of thirteen broadcast regular season games, and only two outside of California. From March 7, 2004 to April 17, 2005, including playoff games, each game Michaels called involved either the Lakers or Kings (a total of 21 consecutive games).
For the 2006-07 NBA season, ABC's sports operations were fully integrated into ESPN and as a result, Mark Jackson replaced Hubie Brown as ABC's lead analyst (Brown would still pair with Mike Breen on ESPN's number one team and Mike Tirico on ABC's number two team). ABC's pregame show, which Jackson was a part of, will air from the site of the main game each week (much like ABC's first season in 2003).
Additionally, Michele Tafoya returned as a sideline reporter, after sitting out the 2005-06 season on maternity leave. Lisa Salters returned to her role as its secondary sideline reporter the following year as Tafoya returned to her old role.
On July 9, 2007, it was announced by Dan Patrick that he would be leaving ESPN after 18 years with the network. Stuart Scott hosts ABC's pregame show for the 2007-08 season along with analysts Bill Walton and Michael Wilbon. Jeff Van Gundy also joined Mike Breen and Mark Jackson full-time, starting Christmas Day. After Walton had back problems in February, Jon Barry replaced him for the rest of the season. That season marked the final season for Michele Tafoya as she left her spot in order to spend more time with her family.
Lead Sideline Reporter Michele Tafoya left her spot to spend more time with her family as she still continued to work ESPN primarily working the sidelines for Monday Night Football before leaving for NBC and to Sunday Night Football in 2011. Taking her spot is Doris Burke, who is also an analyst for the NBA on ESPN.
When Burke is on-assignment or working as an analyst on NBA games for ESPN, Lisa Salters filled in as the lead sideline reporter whenever Burke isn't there. When Salters isn't working the No. 2 announce team Heather Cox is usually there to fill-in for Salters when she is working the No. 1 announce team. Cox took over the No. 2 role in 2012 after Salters became a full-time sideline reporter for Monday Night Football, and either Chris Broussard or Holly Rowe served as the No. 2 reporter if Cox was assigned as the lead reporter.
Currently the main broadcast team consists of Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, while the second broadcast team consists of Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown, with either Terry Gannon or Dave Pasch filling in when Tirico has other commitments. The studio team consists of Stuart Scott, Jon Barry, Michael Wilbon and Magic Johnson. Mark Jackson left the broadcast booth to take the head coaching position with the Golden State Warriors in June 2011. ABC's second team of Tirico and Brown also comprise the lead team for NBA Finals coverage on ESPN Radio. Before the 2011–12 season ABC reassigned Scott to another role while the studio team worked without a main host in a more free-flowing approach.
ABC's ratings for the NBA Playoffs and Finals have been lower than NBC's ratings. In its last year televising the NBA, 2002, NBC experienced a growth in playoff ratings, leading to the highest rated Western Conference Final in league history, and a 14.2 rating for Game 7 of that series, which featured the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings. ABC's highest rating overall is an 18.2 which came in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Boston Celtics; being watched by 28.2 million viewers, it is the highest-rated and most-watched NBA game since Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, which had a 22.3 rating and drew 72 million viewers. Regular season ratings fell to 2.2 in 2005 and then again in 2006; that rating is less than half of what NBC averaged in the 1999 lockout-shortened regular season. The 2007 Finals, a series featuring the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers, was the lowest rated Finals in league history, with a 6.2 rating and 11 share. This is perhaps attributed to the small-market representation and the four game series, in which San Antonio easily defeated Cleveland. Ratings have rebounded somewhat in 2008, with the Lakers-Nuggets Game 1 drawing a 3.5 rating, the highest rating since 2003.
After the 1990s (when the NBA arguably reached its highest point in terms of popularity) many hardcore and casual fans began to associate the league with NBC, and more accurately, the network's theme music, Roundball Rock. Whereas NBC used Roundball Rock for all twelve years of its coverage, ABC has used at least nine themes in its first four years. Three of the themes were traditional sports themes, while six of them (We Got Hoops by Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Can't Get Enough by Justin Timberlake, Let's Get It Started by The Black Eyed Peas, Lose My Breath by Destiny's Child, This Is How A Heart Breaks by Rob Thomas and Runnin' Down a Dream by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) were contemporary pieces by known artists.
For the 2006-07 NBA season, ESPN began using "Fast Break", ABC's NBA theme since 2004, as its theme. Because of the move to ESPN on ABC (which calls for all sporting events on ABC to have the same production elements as games on ESPN), this means that games on ABC will have the same theme music from previous years.
According to a study by Simmons research, which involved a survey of an indeterminate number of American adults, the primary audience for the NBA Finals on ABC is primarily male, with a fairly even distribution of people aged 25–44 (approximately 20 percent of 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 year old people surveyed said they watched the games). The statistics showed that 64.3 percent of the audience were white and 23.7 percent were African American. A combined 20.5 percent of those polled with income from $100,000 to $249,999 said they watched games, and Democrats watching outnumbered Republicans 49% to 34%. This research likely corresponds to the 2005 NBA Finals, as it was published in fall of that year.
For the 2005 NBA Finals, the Nielsen local people meter found sharp increases in the percentage of those watching the NBA on ABC when isolating the African American audience. In Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., the percentage of African Americans watching the NBA Finals was larger than that of the entire population by 15 to 30 percentage points. In San Francisco, the disparity was largest; the percentage of African Americans was 56%, while the general population percentage was 27%. Most notably, "More than half of all African Americans adults in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco watched at least part of the NBA Finals. This was about twice as high as the overall viewing by the total population in those two markets." Nielsen's local people meter also found that "In every LPM market, the ratings for the NBA Finals were twice as high for Men as for Women."
The 2006 NBA Finals scored ratings of 20.4, 22.3, 20.6, 21.9, 23.8 and 24.6 among African Americans. African Americans accounted for 30 percent of ABC's audience for Game 6 of the series. Among Hispanics, the numbers for Games 3-5 were 6.0, 7.6, and 8.2, and nationally, the ratings were 8.0, 7.8 and 9.0.
In its first three years of coverage, ABC televised 40 playoff games, whereas NBC aired 35 in 2002 alone. The San Antonio Spurs have appeared on ABC thirty-six times, the most of any other team. The Charlotte Bobcats are the only team to have not appeared on ABC during the length of the current contract, whereas the San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks have appeared on the network every year since 2002. The Atlanta Hawks did appear on ABC during the network's coverage in the 1960s and 1970s, including a Christmas Day game against the Phoenix Suns in 1970. They didn't appear until Game 7 of the 2008 1st Round Playoffs against the Boston Celtics.The Utah Jazz appearances have all come during the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers have appeared in ABC's featured Christmas Day game every season (against the Sacramento Kings in 2002, the Houston Rockets in 2003, the Miami Heat in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2010, the Phoenix Suns in 2007, the Boston Celtics in 2008, Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009, and the Chicago Bulls in 2011). After the Miami Heat, who have four Christmas Day appearances on ABC, the Sacramento Kings and the Boston Celtics are the only other teams to have repeat appearances on the holiday.
During the 2004 NBA Playoffs, ABC and ESPN's telecasts were heavily sponsored by the feature film, The Day After Tomorrow. During the 2005 NBA Playoffs, games were sponsored by XXX: State of the Union and, during the Finals, Fantastic Four. From 2002 to 2005, ABC's halftime report was sponsored by Verizon Wireless. Starting with the 2005-06 season, it was sponsored by T-Mobile. From 2002 to 2005, ABC had a GMC sponsored feature known as the GMC Professional Grade Plays of the Week, which was later changed to the GMC Professional Grade Matchup during the 2005 NBA Playoffs. During the 2003 NBA Finals, ABC adopted one of ESPN's SportsCenter features, The Budweiser Hot Seat, which was hosted by Jim Gray. Other ESPN features that ABC has used include the Sprite Mad Skillz, and GameTrack or Storyline, which was sponsored by varied brands, including KFC and Volkswagen, ABC's telecast of the Miami Heat–Los Angeles Lakers game on Christmas Day 2004, was sponsored by American Express, also the NBA Sunday package after the All-Star break in 2007 became sponsored by Hertz.
Since the beginning of the NBA on ABC, Ahmad Rashad has delivered weekly interviews with NBA players in a segment known as Access Ahmad. In addition, Rashad hosts NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad, a weekly show about the lives of NBA personalities. From 2003 to 2005, ABC's pregame show had a feature known as The NBA Minute, where celebrities (including Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson, and Ron Howard) would have a minute to talk about the NBA.
From January 3, 1965 up until May 10, 1973, ABC was the primary television partner of the NBA. For much of the 1960s, ABC only televised Sunday afternoon games, including the playoffs. This meant that ABC did not have to televise a potential NBA Finals deciding game if it was played on a weeknight. In 1969, ABC did televise Game 7 of the Los Angeles Lakers–Boston Celtics series in prime time on a weeknight. The following season, ABC aired the 1970 NBA Finals in full, making it the first NBA Finals to have all games televised nationally.
Commentators for the original NBA on ABC included play-by-play men Keith Jackson and Chris Schenkel and analysts Jack Twyman, Bob Cousy, and Bill Russell. On April 8, 1967, an AFTRA strike forced ABC Sports producer Chuck Howard and director Chet Forte to call Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals between Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. Curt Gowdy also was the play-by-play for half of the season in 1967.
The first nationally televised Christmas Day NBA broadcast occurred in 1967, when ABC broadcast a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Diego Rockets from San Diego. Jerry Gross and Jack Twyman called that particular broadcast for ABC. ABC would continue to televise Christmas Day games on through 1972. The remainder of these broadcasts, emulated from Phoenix. Chris Schenkel did play-by-play for ABC during this period with the exception of 1970, when Keith Jackson had the honors. Jack Twyman remained in the color commentating position up until 1971, when Bill Russell took over.
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