Mark Jackson is out at ESPN after turning down a demotion based on media reports. Jackson joins longtime broadcast partner Jeff Van Gundy who was one of the more high profile ESPN cuts earlier this month after years working together on ESPN's A-team alongside Mike Breen. Jackson and Van Gundy are being replaced by Doris Burke and Doc Rivers.
On Monday morning, Andrew Marchand reported that Jackson was in "peril." With the hiring of Rivers and promotion of Doris Burke, Jackson would could join Mark Jones on the second team and if he balked "he could be headed out of ESPN." Peter Vecsey reported on Monday afternoon that Jackson had been let go by ESPN, signaling that he did in fact balk. Marchand confirmed the news.
So what now? The NBA will have a slightly new, but ultimately familiar sound on ESPN. Doris Burke has covered the the NBA for ESPN for decades, becoming a regular analyst in 2017, and will now be the first woman to work as an analyst on the NBA Finals. Doc Rivers spent the 2003-04 season on the NBA on ABC and called the 2004 NBA Finals alongside Al Michaels before he took the Boston Celtics job. It's been a few years since Rivers broadcast a game, but with Breen and Burke to lean on, he can take his time getting back into the groove.
Ultimately, fans will adjust as Burke and Rivers add color between Breen's signature calls. Though they may miss Van Gundy and Jackson now that they're gone. The trio of Breen, JVG and Jackson called a record number of NBA Finals games together and the sometimes confusing banter between Van Gundy and Jackson was the stuff the internet was made for.
Keep that in the back of your mind as NBA negotiates new rights deals with new networks and a bunch of streaming services considering bidding on basketball. If you have to build an NBA broadcast from scratch, suddenly two-thirds of the booth that just called the 2023 NBA Finals is available.