After Maria Taylor’s much-publicized departure from ESPN in July, many of us were livid and assumed that veteran broadcaster Rachel Nichols had unjustly “won” the silent war between them, which was uncovered by the New York Times. But on Wednesday came the news that there would be no winners, as the sports conglomerate announced that it has pulled the plug on Nichol’s popular weekday show, The Jump, as well as removed her from all NBA programming—effective immediately.
“We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned,” David Roberts, ESPN’s senior vice president of production, said in a statement. “Rachel is an excellent reporter, host, and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content.”
Sports Business Journal broke the story, and in the time since, journalists, critics, and basketball fanatics alike have speculated on what had to have changed behind the scenes to make ESPN go from riding with Nichols to sentencing her to broadcast purgatory—she’ll still get a check, but won’t be on-air—for the duration of her contract. Are there more details that are about to come out in relation to the infamous leaked audio in which Nichols privately accused her employer of only offering Taylor opportunities because she’s a Black woman? Is there another controversy that’s about to come to light? Is the work environment so contentious after Nichol’s comments that ESPN had to purge one of its most prominent reporters in order to correct course?
While we wait for the answers to these and other questions, all Nichols has offered thus far is confirmation that after a lengthy stint at ESPN, her time at the worldwide leader in sports has officially come to a close.
“Got to create a whole show and spend five years hanging out with some of my favorite people talking about one [of] my favorite things [basketball],” she tweeted. “An eternal thank you to our amazing producers & crew—The Jump was never build to last forever but it sure was fun. More to come...”
With The Jump officially canceled—unlike DaBaby—ESPN will pivot by creating another daily NBA show that will follow a similar format as the long-running NFL Live. And while the network is still brimming with on-air talent—despite a recent mass exodus that includes Maria Taylor, Hall of Fame sports writer Jackie Macmullan, LZ Granderson, and others—the perfect person for the job is rising star Malika Andrews. I previously sang her praises when Nichols was pulled from serving as a sideline reporter during the 2021 NBA Finals:
Almost every single time I see ESPN reporter Malika Andrews on one of the network’s shows, I literally yell, “Why in the hell don’t they use her more?!?!” at my TV. For anyone who’s listened to the 26-year-old spend even 10 seconds breaking down everything from playoff expectations to NBA players amplifying calls for social justice, they know that her nuance and grasp of the game is unparalleled by just about anyone else at the worldwide leader in sports.
Her talent is undeniable, and she filled in admirably for Nichols during a recent stint on The Jump (whose absence makes much more sense in hindsight). Since joining the network in 2018, the Oakland native has primarily been relegated to spot duty. But with Nichols and Taylor no longer on the payroll, her time is now. So don’t fuck this up, ESPN!
As usual, Twitter also has plenty of thoughts on ESPN’s decision to move on from Nichols, ranging from relief to confusion to just plain funny-ass jokes.
Again: DO NOT FUCK THIS UP, ESPN! You know what needs to be done, and giving Malika her own show is about the only way you can come out of this mess unscathed.