It already has been hailed as one of the best NBA Finals ever, with the first three games shattering ratings records for ABC. With some 18 million viewers tuning in each time to watch the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers battle it out, the finals give the network a great platform to promote its new series for next season, which it does. But the one show that would’ve been the perfect fit to plug during the finals, the untitled NBA comedy (aka Warriors), is not among them as the network surprisingly passed on the pilot.
The buddy comedy, done with the blessing of the league, was set at and produced with the cooperation of the Golden State Warriors, with the team’s co-owner Peter Guber serving as an executive producer. The actors on the show wear Golden State Warriors jerseys, and the pilot shot scenes in the team’s Oracle Arena which was the scene of the first two overtime thrillers in the current NBA Finals. The pilot, starring newcomer Blondy Baruti as an NBA rookie who doesn’t speak English and Skylar Astin as a translator who doesn’t speak basketball, was considered among the frontrunners on the half-hour side at ABC. But the project, from the network’s sibling ABC Studios and one of the studios’ top comedy producers, Dan Fogelman, ultimately didn’t make the cut in one of the surprises at the upfronts.
The network instead opted to go with two comedies from outside studios, Universal TV’s Uncle Buck and Sony TV’s Dr. Ken as well as ABC Studios’ Dan Savage-produced family comedy The Real O’Neals, about a family with a gay son, and the no-brainer The Muppets. ABC Studios didn’t give up and pursued other options for the NBA project but nothing panned out.
Frankly, it would be hard to place the show elsewhere as it is tailor-made for ABC — it is broad, geared toward broadcast, and ABC is the only broadcast network carrying the NBA. So, despite efforts to save it, the project died a quiet death. (ABC and ABC Studios are staying in business with Baruti, recently signing him in a talent deal). Still, a blazing-hot NBA Finals series featuring the Golden State Warriors, whose every game so far has set a ratings record, does make one think of the possibilities if the NBA pilot had gone forward.