On the day of the start of the NBA Finals, ESPN’s premiere daily NBA show was missing from the network’s schedule. Instead, according to the New York Post, viewers who tuned in on Tuesday found the two-man team of Jalen & Jacoby, who are usually The Jump‘s lead-in. A subsequent Jump schedule spot was filled by the network’s Highly Questionable.
According to Post media columnist Andrew Marchand, “the plan is to have it on tomorrow.”
NEWS: ESPN canceled Rachel Nichols' The Jump for today, The Post has learned.
The plan is to have it on tomorrow.
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) July 6, 2021
The scheduling changes came just minutes after ESPN announced Tuesday that Maria Taylor will be hosting the network’s pregame and halftime shows for the NBA Finals. Those duties have been at the center of a controversy involving comments made by Rachel Nichols, host of The Jump, about Taylor potentially assuming the Finals hosting role.
The rolling controversy has now enveloped one of the network’s signature shows — on which Nichols already apologized Monday. Given that, it is unclear how her return might be stage managed. And with Taylor leading coverage of the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns tonight, the timing is not fortuitous.
Likewise, ESPN also announced on Tuesday that Nichols no longer will be the network’s sideline reporter for the Finals, a position she held last year and during big games this season. That role will go to the network’s very capable NBA reporter, Malika Andrews.
Taylor’s ascension might put pressure on the network in another way, however. If the series goes to a seventh game, the New York Times reports Taylor’s contract with ESPN “expires near the end of the finals, and to date the two sides are not close on a renewal.” In fact, after being offered $5 million the host reportedly wants $7 million, a salary range the network reserves for its very top stars, such as Stephen A. Smith.
One ray of NBA Finals hope for ESPN is the fact that the Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo “has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable” for tonight’s game, according to Andrews. An epic performance by Antetokounmpo — or even just a good series — would go a long way toward redirecting viewers’ attention from the broadcast booth back on the court.
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