A crazy thing happened on ESPN NBA Today Tuesday: Practical, informative on-court analysis.
That’s not to say a show like this never offers anything interesting. If anything, ESPN’s sports-specific daily shows are almost always a step up from the morning debate shows that still dominate cable TV because the people involved often seem to like each other.
But joy doesn’t always equal quality (see also: several episodes Ted Lasso Season 2), and the topic often shifts from discussing on-field sports to the field as a whole, specifically discussing the realm of trading fiction. a! Draft tanks! Future Free Agents!
There’s no way to compile this, but if you narrow it down to every bit of ESPN NBA content on all platforms (TV, digital, editorial, audio, etc.), the percentage of time spent on “what if” speculation never happened and/or Deals that never had the chance to happen would be amazing.
That’s one reason Brian Windhorst is going viral in 2022: he hints at knowing something might happen, and then something does happen. If this was commonplace in the NBA media, no one would blink!
Which brings us back to Tuesday, when NBA Today Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox joined the cast at the studio. Instead of spending all its time talking about the Beam or any other cliché, the show decided to really take advantage of having actual live NBA players in their studio, letting Fox and Sabonis show one of the main Sacramento scenes.
The result: Two minutes of enjoyable TV for any level of basketball fan.
This is great.
Fox and Sabonis lead the NBA Today crew through their “Pistol 5” moves. Really spoke to us about the variety and versatility of the offense.
The two played two-man games surrounded by knockdown shooters, bending defenses wildly. pic.twitter.com/gxWsx1quYH
– J rue (@thatl0calguy) January 17, 2023
De’Aaron Fox is delightful here, displaying a walk-and-talk ability that wouldn’t feel out of place in Aaron Sorkin’s work. (these two minute clips are worth more than anything newsroom Society was once provided. )
It’s also a loose production; things aren’t over-explained, nobody takes themselves too seriously, and perhaps most importantly nobody steps on actual players as they describe and demonstrate. I’m a fairly avid NBA fan and have played, watched and/or written a lot about basketball since kindergarten, when Fox demonstrated the versatility of a simple move in the hands of two instinctive playmakers with budding chemistry I’m still fascinated.
Still, if I was also a middle school basketball fan watching at home, I could easily see this glitch. It doesn’t include details that could bog down some more serious analysis, and Jalen Rose interjecting to point out that the fact that both players are left-handed is a nice added value (and a nice reminder that Jalen freaking Rose was there on screen , an iconic ’90s player knew more about basketball than viewers could have hoped, even if he didn’t always get the chance to show it.)
This is definitely what the panel shows NBA Today Should strive for. It’s also telling how Fox and Sabonis lead viewers through the show. Sabonis is just a king thanks to last season’s trade with Indiana that sent Tyrese Haliburton to the Pacers. That was after months of trade rumors linking Sabonis to countless other teams, with essentially zero speculation that Haliburton was available. Once Sabonis was sent to Sacramento, all that talk was for naught.
Regardless of what happens at the deadline, though, the Kings will still be using this Fox/Sabonis pistol kit for months (and possibly years) to come. It’s clear which type of content has more lasting value.
[Photo Credit: ESPN]