1. BILL SIMMONS
This is an article from the Dec. 28, 2015 issue
His HBO talk show, spanning sports and popular culture, will debut in 2016, as will a new content site. Look, too, for Simmons's podcast efforts to bulk up, with more former Grantland staffers joining up. The former ESPNer will be motivated to take the audience away from his old employer.
2. JEFF GORDON
The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion will work as a full-time race analyst for Fox, teaming with three-time champion Darrell Waltrip and announcer Mike Joy for a potentially very interesting booth. He'll have to fill big shoes: The trio of Joy, Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds (who is moving out of the booth) was one of the best in the sport's history.
3. RACHEL NICHOLS
A former ESPNer returning to the Mothership—Nichols worked for ESPN from 2004 to '13 before moving to CNN—Nichols is scheduled to host her own still-to-be-determined show, a rarity in the business for a woman. The network will benefit from her journalistic chops.
4. CARI CHAMPION
In the spirit of Andy Dufresne escaping the shackles of Shawshank State Penitentiary, Champion broke free this year from her soul-sucking role as the never-give-an-opinion moderator of the unctuous First Take. With a regular gig on SportsCenter and a compelling podcast (Be Honest with Cari Champion), 2016 should be Zihuatanejo for the broadcaster.
5. SKIP BAYLESS
The contract of ESPN's vainglorious wrestling heel is up this summer, and he will likely be courted by Fox Sports 1, which is looking to up the ante with its roster of sports bloviators. With Bayless's ESPN2 show, First Take, enjoying excellent ratings this fall (averaging more than 400,000 viewers), he has plenty of leverage.
6. VIN SCULLY
The greatest living sports broadcaster, 88 years young, announced last August that the 2016 season will be his last. Savor this man—and celebrate every Scully Dodgers game next season.