Roundtable: Which NBA star would make the best late-night TV host?
In honor of Stephen Colbert beginning his tenure as The Late Show host tonight, SI.com paneled its writers to ask which NBA player would make the best talk show host. Believe it or not, the NBA has a long (and somewhat successful) history of hosting talk shows, from The Magic Hour to The Reggie Miller Show to numerous appearances on Saturday Night Live. Without further ado...
Which NBA player would make the best late-night talk show host?
Lee Jenkins: Blake Griffin, Clippers
I once talked to the creator of a very successful comedy series, for a story about another NBA player, and for some reason the conversation shifted to Blake Griffin. He said, “Blake is funny, not just by athletes’ standards, but by actors’ standards.” Griffin’s sense of humor is so dry that it rarely translates to interviews or press conference. He's no showman. Monologues could be a struggle. But he’d be fantastic at playing off his guests, letting them talk, yet making fun of himself and them in an understated way. I also think he’d hold himself to a very high standard as an interviewer, because he doesn’t seem to think much of most questions he gets asked.
Ben Golliver: Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
The Mavericks’ Hall-of-Fame-bound forward has spent the last few years auditioning for exactly this gig. There was the time he screeched and juked through “Born in the USA.” There was the time he sang a David Hasselhoff song and strummed the guitar on a German talk show. There was the time he sang a Hasselhoff song as he clapped his hands during an on-the-spot, walk-and-talk interview. There was the time he danced like no one was watching while surrounded by cheerleaders. There was the time he showed off top-notch improvisational skills with a signature, “Shut it down! Let’s go home!” call from the sideline. And there was the time he administered a “Texas Citizenship Test” to Conan O’Brien, displaying expert comedic timing and keeping a straight face as he called himself “The 7-foot Schnitzel” and “Super Strudel.”
Like O’Brien, Nowitzki isn’t afraid to take chances in front of an audience and he’s secure enough to be the butt of his own jokes, two crucial traits for any prospective host. Nowitzki is also affable, upbeat and comfortable on camera, and he possesses both a distinctive accent and a name that lends itself well to running, borderline-crude gags (“You’ve been Dirked,” etc.). He's really the total package. In this mythical “Late Show with Dirk Nowitzki” universe, I’d nominate Joey Crawford to replace Paul Shaffer, encouraging the veteran referee to blow his whistle to show appreciation for quality zingers and high-step across the stage to spice up flat interviews.
Michael Rosenberg: Draymond Green, Warriors
He is funny and willing to say anything to anybody, like the time he dismissed Doc Rivers's jibe by saying, "Cool story, Glenn." And it's not just one-liners. Green could easily chat for an hour. And he'll never run out of Tom Izzo stories to use as material.
Matt Dollinger: Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Network executives may (rightfully) be hesitant to hand over the talk show reins to Russell Westbrook, an occasionally media adverse superstar, but they would only need to see the pilot episode to be convinced of his prowess. For starters, Westbrook, a fashion aficionado, would instantly boast the best wardrobe on late night. His high-energy game on the court would translate seamlessly off it, making the whirling dervish pop on television and in front of studio audiences. As for interviews, Westbrook has a long history of shooting down reporters' probing questions—here, here, and here—but we’ve yet to see him when the tables are turned. Westbrook would have no problem setting his guests up for punchlines, as evidenced by his 8.6 assists per game last season (No. 4 in NBA), and he’d have little trouble scoring his own laughs, as evidenced by his league-leading 28.1 points per game. Late-night hosts essentially need to be one-man shows, and as we saw when Kevin Durant went down last season, Westbrook has no problem owning the spotlight.
DeAntae Prince: Nick Young, Lakers
The typical Late Show tropes are easy to predict at this point. Each host is equipped with quick wit, a dark suit, and an opening monologue riffing on recent headlines. No NBA player could turn this formula on its ear quite like Nick Young. In a league of fashion-forward players with big personalties, Young stands out as the most flamboyant. He would quickly ditch the Armani suits in favor of flashy Versace shirts and leather pants. Rather than ask canned questions to set guests up for long-winded stories, Young would talk about himself (examples can be found everywhere). And, finally, there’s the cache of playing for the Lakers and dating one of the most famous rappers in the world, Iggy Azalea. This show would be sure to crash and burn in a matter of weeks, but the entertainment value outpaces any other NBA option.
Jeremy Woo: Blake Griffin, Clippers
He might be prone to the occasional on-court flop, but his comedic résumé and on-camera experience would make Blake Griffin a natural fit for a hosting job. He once interned with and has a solid list of moderately-to-actually amusing commercials under his belt. Never mind the fact he's already in Los Angeles, where guests would be easy to book and potential for interesting collaborations is high. Sample episode: to tug at people's emotions, a sit-down with Timofey Mozgov where the two air their grievances and relive that fateful dunk. Then, a rapid-fire emoji-only Q&A session with DeAndre Jordan. And finally, Blake brings out Justin Bieber to talk about his new album and discuss the old rumors about Griffin slapping the pop star at a Starbucks. I think we have a hit.