Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kenny Mayne shined for ESPN, while "Get Up" and A-Rod flop.
1. I attended ESPN’s Upfronts in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday. The upfronts are for advertisers, not press and fans. It’s ESPN’s chance to get companies to spend money on their shows. However, the shows that were pitched are ultimately for the viewers and the personalites used to make those pitches are still trying to appeal to fans. So, here's my recap of what took place, what shined and what flopped.
• Michael Jordan documentary: ESPN and Netflix will air a 10-hour doc on Jordan and the 1990s Bulls teams in 2019. It will be directed by Jason Hehir, who is coming off the great Andre the Giant doc on HBO. It’s hard to imagine a sports fan NOT watching this.
• Kobe Bryant: The former Lakers star was on hand to promote his ESPN+ show Detail. Like him or not, Kobe captivates a room, especially when he speaks about basketball, as he did Tuesday. When Kobe talks, you hang on every word. He also dropped a good line about Phil Jackson being lucky enough to coach two very coachable players, in reference to him and Shaq. Self-deprecation is always good.
• Basketball: A Love Story: This upcoming show will feature more than 60 of the biggest names in basketball history sitting down to talk about their love of the game in short form.
• Kenny Mayne: The long-time staffer didn’t have a show to pitch. He just did a couple of bits, worked blue and got the biggest laughs of the morning.
• New President Jimmy Pitaro: He had his hands full taking over for John Skipper and he didn’t say a ton on Tuesday. He mostly stuck to corporate speak and spun everything into a positive, which was fine. That's the gig. The biggest plus for Pitaro and the network on Monday is that there was not a single mention of politics or the ridiculous perceived “liberal bias” of ESPN. The further ESPN can get away from that nonsensical narrative, the better for them.
• Get Up: The morning opened with a truly awful video skit featuring the show’s three hosts—Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle, Jalen Rose. The clip, which started with Greenberg and Beadle in a car, basically told you not to watch the show. It had all the unoriginal, cringeworthy things you’d imagine: Mike Greenberg likes to show pics of kids. (So wacky!) Michelle Beadle likes to show pics of her dogs. (So hilarious!) They argue about LeBron vs. Jordan. (So riveting!) Then the three hosts get out of the car and start walking toward their studio and the shot goes to slo mo. How cool! How radical!
• Alex Rodriguez: For some strange reason ESPN thinks America is dying for more A-Rod. The network announced a four-part interview show hosted by the former Yankee who was suspended for the entire 2014 season for using performance-enhancing drugs, so he plugged the show in his usual robotic and awkward way. While ESPN will tell you they haven’t had marquee Sunday night matchups, the fact remains that ratings for Sunday Night Baseball this season are down significantly despite the big hullabaloo over hiring A-Rod and his personal play-by-play guy, Matt Vasgersian, to call the games.
• Jerry Jones: The Cowboys owner was on hand to introduce Jason Witten, who, along with Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland, make up Monday Night Football's new broadcast booth. I’m far from a Johnny Journalism type, but it just didn’t look good to have one of the most controversial owners in sports—who is not exactly a great guy—yucking it up with the people who are supposed to cover him. Yes, this was done to impress the advertisers in the room, and I have zero expectation that Witten will be objective about Jones and the Cowboys, but the optics were far from great.
• Jason Witten: Nobody should judge Witten until he calls a couple of games, but after showing very little personality during a 15-year career, we’re all waiting to see something. He didn’t show anything at the upfronts.
2. The highlight of the NBA Draft Lottery last night was actress Jami Gertz representing the Hawks. It turns out Gertz is married to Tony Ressler, the principal owner of the Hawks. Who knew?
Gertz has been in plenty of films, but of course, she is most known for one simple television scene.
3. In addition to having a horrific game, J.R. Smith also unleashed a cheap shot on Al Horford.
4. If you like visually stunning photos, click on these two.
5. It seems a little rude that reliever David Robertson would laugh and cheer after a teammate strikes out, but that's what he did after pitcher Masahiro Tanaka whiffed in grand fashion last night.
6. Chris Hansen and Jonah from Veep with some of their finest work ever here mocking the "get in the hole" golf guy.
7. RANDOM SPORTS BETTING VIDEO OF THE DAY: Now Al can just come right out and explain what he means with the cute one-liners.
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IN CLOSING: Warriors +1.5 tonight, please.