Behind the Mic: Magic Johnson Exits ESPN NBA Countdown; Doug Collins Replaces Mike Wilbon

Magic Johnson announced on Thursday that he is leaving ESPN because of his other commitments. The NBA legend joined the network in 2008, appearing on ESPN and ABC as a studio and game analyst. He expanded his role on ESPN to join the NBA Countdown studio show in 2011. Last year, Johnson added the role of Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner to his many business venutures, limiting his time for NBA Countdown. However, several reports indicate that it was not Magic’s busy schedule that resulted in his departure but instead a rift with co-host and ESPN stalwart Bill Simmons.

Magic’s departure comes just days after ESPN announced it is replacing host Mike Wilbon with veteran NBA coach Doug Collins (reportedly a Simmons-fueled move). ESPN has reached a multi-year agreement with Collins, who will  join Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons — along with longtime NBA and college-basketball analyst/sideline reporter Doris Burke one day per week — as the hosts of NBA Countdown.

Collins will also serve as a game analyst for selected telecasts on ESPN and make regular in-studio appearances on Pardon the Interruption across ESPN entities, including SportsCenter, ESPN Radio,, and additional news and information programming.

According to ESPN, Wilbon will continue to have a significant presence on ESPN’s NBA coverage across platforms. He will regularly contribute to ESPN news and information programming, including SportsCenter, for which he will provide reports and analysis and offer essays on pertinent NBA topics. Wilbon will also be on-site for the NBA Conference Finals and NBA Finals…

…This weekend, CBS’s NFL Today analysts Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason, and Shannon Sharpe travel out of the studio and into the booth to call a game involving their former teams. Cowher forms a three-man booth with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to call the game between his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, as they take on the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Esiason joins Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots to call Cincinnati at Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.  And Hall of Famer Sharpe heads back to Denver, where he played 12 seasons, to team with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts for the Jacksonville-Denver game from Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver…

…Michelle Beadle is reportedly on her way out of NBC Sports Group. Last month, her show, The Crossover, was canceled, and, according to The Big Lead, she is now in the process of leaving the network altogether — and possibly returning to ESPN.

…Former NBA player and University of Connecticut basketball star Donny Marshall has joined the YES Network as a Brooklyn Nets analyst. He joins Mike Fratello and Jim Spanarkel as YES’s Nets analysts, along with play-by-play callers Ian Eagle and Ryan Ruocco. Marshall also provides color commentary on NBCSN’s college-basketball telecasts and was an analyst on NBC’s 2012 London Olympics men’s basketball coverage. From 2005 to 2013, Marshall was a Boston Celtics analyst for Comcast SportsNet New England. He had also previously done color commentary on NBA TV and on ESPN and ESPN2’s college-basketball telecasts, and he also had co-hosted WFSB-TV’s (Hartford, CT) NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament studio shows…

… Marshall — along with Greg Dickerson, and Gary Tanguay — will no longer be part of NESN’s Boston Celtics coverage. Surprisingly, President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge and Chris Herren are slated to fill in as color analysts on at least a couple of occasions. Dickerson, the Celtics’ sideline reporter since 2005, will continue to contribute to CSNNE and NECN programming. He will be replaced by Abby Chin, who came to Boston from the CSN affiliate in Portland, OR, as an anchor/reporter last December. Kyle Draper will replace Tanguay as the host of pre- and post-game studio coverage. Tanguay will remain as a host of Sports Tonight. Tommy Heinsohn will be the color analyst for all home games alongside play-by-play voice Mike Gorman. It will be their 33d year together calling Celtics games…

…Time Warner Cable SportsNet Lakers studio analyst James Worthy will join Stu Lantz and Bill Macdonald (sideline reporter Mike Trudell will also contribute) to call two preseason games in China live from the Time Warner Cable SportsNet studio in Southern California on Oct. 15 and Oct. 18. Both games will air at 4:30 a.m. PT, with the game transmitted directly from China. On Time Warner Cable Deportes, Lakers play-by-play announcer Adrián García Márquez and lead team analyst Francisco Pinto will call the matches live from the Time Warner Cable Deportes studio with the network’s new in-house Lakers expert Pepe Sanchez providing supporting commentary for both games…

…ESPN Deportes has tapped the services of Rosana Franco to serve as one of the hosts of Raza Deportiva, the network’s first live morning simulcast show. Franco will be joining Omar Orlando and Leo Vega in Miami, with David Faitelson and Rafa Ramos in Los Angeles; and Oscar Restrepo from Bogota, Colombia. Prior to ESPN Deportes, Franco served as the host of Univision’s Republica Deportiva for 13 years.

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